One of the most difficult times of the year for a recovering addict is the holiday season. While the holidays are meant for catching up with loved ones and old friends, talking about the upcoming new year, and exchanging gifts – addiction triggers and temptations skyrocket to an all-time high. The holidays can be stressful due to the preparation for parties, gift-wrapping, and family events. Additionally, at parties, the options of drinking alcohol, eating certain foods, and sometimes even the presence of recreational legal drugs can tempt a recovering addict to give up their streak of sobriety for just one night.
Since this vulnerability during the holidays is a difficult time for a recovering addict, implement these methods to handle addiction triggers during the holidays with resilience:
Even though the majority of your loved ones may already know you are recovering from an addiction, it never hurts to still communicate to them your concerns for temptations at future events and parties. Having others aware of your sobriety gives you a support system that will hold you accountable for your choices, just as much as yourself – and remember, these are the people who love you and want you to thrive in sobriety. Furthermore, they can always help you during moments of temptation and remind you of your goals as well.
Taking the path of sobriety came from the desire to live the best quality of life you could imagine. While unpleasant, think back on the times when you abused substances: you were unhappy, lost, and at the lowest point of your life. Giving into one temptation that can lead to a relapse is never worth the risk. During these moments of temptation, your feelings of frustration and stress are completely understandable and valid – but you need to remember that no one else is responsible for the quality of your life and recovery but yourself. Every choice you make matters and is either one step forward or three steps back.
Reflect on every single trigger you have – and keep a list of them all in your pocket if necessary. The awareness of one’s triggers is vital to recovery because knowing what can send you back into a relapse can ease your discomfort if facing it in person. Therefore, take time for a day or two to think about your triggers, no matter how small or intimidating. Also, it never hurts to ask what your friends, family, and colleagues will plan to serve at their events so you know where the triggers are located so you can avoid them.
Besides knowing your triggers by heart, prepare your strategies of healthy coping mechanisms meant to keep you grounded and rational in the face of the triggers or moments of high stress. You can even take the time to practice several at home before a holiday event, such as meditation and deep breathing. Even something as simple as directing your attention and focus away from a trigger or keeping a physical object you can touch when stressed is a healthy coping mechanism.
There will always be an infinite number of holiday parties and events to attend this season. It’s better to miss a few parties than attend one that will cause you to relapse. Not only will you have many other events to attend, you learn to become more comfortable with facing certain triggers over time. Perhaps, in the future you can attend these parties once you have the confidence to be in the presence of triggers, and not succumb to them.
Keep safe drinks and food with you at all times during a party. Unfortunately, most parties will have alcohol or substances that you have been avoiding during your recovery. If you must attend an event with such things present, keep an arsenal of safe drinks and food with you. This can include water and smoothies, or a healthy lunch and dinner. There’s nothing wrong with bringing your own food to a party. The action is for the sake of your well-being. What ultimately matters at a holiday get-together is that you are celebrating with and catching up with the people you love most.
Last but not least, walk away from an event if it becomes too overwhelming and stressful. Regardless if you attend a party during the holidays or a random weekend, your comfort and well-being are more important than feeling obligated to stay. Walking away from an event with triggers does not make you weak – it makes you rational and respectful of your feelings and limitations. Sometimes, places with certain things and people make us feel uncomfortable – that’s normal. Your happiness and comfort levels are the most important things to prioritize this holiday season.