The holiday season is upon us. The streets are bustling with busy shoppers and everywhere you see there are festive decorations and people spreading Christmas cheer. Unless you are an addict of course. In that case, streets are noisy, happy people remind you of how unhappy and depressed you feel, of the people you lost along the road of addiction. Holidays can mean a wide range of different things for different people. Most addicts would agree, though, that the holiday season can take its toll on them. It can be stressful for most, but for a recovering addict, it is on a whole new level. Gray and dark days, mandatory “pretend everything is perfect” parties and financial pressure can make even the most steadfast and resilient addict reach for a drink or a drug of their choice, just to take the edge off.
Holiday season means slippery roads for everyone. For most addicts, this slippery slope is all it takes for a full blown relapse.
People who don’t understand why holidays can be extremely difficult for an addict just need to think a little and it all makes sense. It is important to understand what is it, that triggers a recovering addict into relapse. Negativity, depression, temptation, stress and conflict. These and much more contribute to an addict and his reasons for using. Now, let’s have a look why something as happy and cheery as Christmas holidays could invoke any of the aforementioned feelings.
Cold periods of the year tend to bring with them a slew of undesirable weather patterns. Dark, dreary gray skies, sleet on the streets and wet clothing will make anyone miserable. Bad weather impacts all of us more than we would like to admit. There is always that voice at the back of addicts mind, the one that says its ok to be weak, ok to break and seek relief. An addict will find any excuse to use again and bad weather is as good an excuse as any. Staying positive when everything around you seems morbid and cold can be a daunting task.
Most holiday gatherings involve a lot of people and place a huge emphasis on food and drink. Staying sober is a tough act to keep up if all you can think about is that eggnog or a glass of brandy in front of the cozy fire. These parties usually consist of large amounts of people, mostly family, and friends. This means a lot less emphasis and attention is focused on any one individual in particular. Unless of course, your last name is Claus. This may give an addict an impression that he can get away with relapsing without anyone noticing. Flawed reasoning may come across the addict’s mind. Surely everyone in this room would be happier if I didn’t feel depressed and avoided everyone, right? Just a bump to keep me happy will make them happy too, right? Wrong. Intense amount of self-control and external support is necessary to resist such thoughts.
There may be those on the other side of the spectrum, however. There are a large amount of people who are not very family oriented. People who may have lost contact with their family, most often due to their addiction in the first place. Spending a time usually associated with happiness and bonding with family can be very challenging for a person who is lonely for one reason or other. Statistically, Thanksgiving and Christmas is the time of the year when most of that year’s suicides and drug overdoses happen.
How to stay strong?
There are a few things a recovering addict may do to alleviate these challenges. If you are attending a social gathering, it’s wise to do so with a friend or a family member that is fully aware of your addiction and is dedicated to supporting you in your recovery. Something as simple as having someone to talk to during a moment of weakness can be all it takes to avoid wasting years of hard work towards sobriety.
Always remember that you are not obliged to put your sobriety in jeopardy just to attend some event that you feel might not pan out too well for you and your self-control. If you suspect there will be people that will annoy you, situations that will stress you or anything that could make you anxious – just say no. It’s not worth it.
If you do muster the inner strength to face challenges of social gatherings during holidays, make sure you remain in control. As mentioned earlier, most holidays focus on drink and food. Thanksgiving and Christmas being the biggest offenders. If you are offered a drink, make sure you make it yourself or remind people that you have to be sober. If you don’t feel like engaging in a lengthy recollection of your struggle with addiction and the person offering you a drink does not seem to accept “no thanks” for an answer, simply come up with an excuse for remaining sober. Doctors appointment. Being a designated driver. Whatever will make the temptation back off and allow you to remain in control?
There is no such thing as “just the one, for this occasion”. A journey towards being sober and addiction free can take a long time and many steps, while a single slip-up can send you tumbling back to the very beginning. Don’t jeopardize your chances for happiness, stay sober during holidays, avoid temptations and soak in support from family and friends.