The holidays can be a stressful time even for relatively healthy individuals. Addicts, who are typically dealing with some form of emotional problem, are extremely vulnerable during this season. Although an addicted loved one may have abused the trust of family and friends, it is important to remember that addiction is a symptom of profound unhappiness. No one wants to be an addict, and most people have reached a point of desperation in coping with life.
During the holidays, most addicts are gripped with shame and loneliness because they are even more aware than ever that their addictive behavior creates an emotional wall between them and the people they care about. With the holiday spirit of family and friendship, and the increased danger of depression and other negative outcomes, the holidays may be a great time to reach out to a loved one who is struggling with substance abuse.
The holidays can also put a strain on individuals who are recovering from addiction. Family gatherings can be emotionally stressful and can trigger unhealthy coping mechanisms. However, loved ones can provide essential support for those who are in recovery to help them avoid emotional pitfalls, deal with cravings, and find joy in the holiday season.
A little planning ahead can go a long way to help avoid relapses, hurtful situations, and tragic consequences. Here are some tips for holiday gatherings for those who are recovering, and for those who love someone in recovery:
• Take the focus off of alcoholic beverages. Downplay alcohol consumption and emphasize other activities like talking, music, games, or sports.
• Provide non-alcoholic alternatives, and avoid calling attention to the fact that someone isn’t drinking alcohol. You may not know the whole story.
• When cravings hit, try eating something sweet. Sugar can help satisfy the part of the brain that triggers cravings for alcohol and opiates.
• If you are in recovery, consider taking a friend who has achieved long-term sobriety with you to gatherings. This person will understand your situation be able to provide effective support during tough moments.
• If you are feeling stress or overwhelmed, take some time out. Go for a walk with a friend, take a quick nap. Being tired can deplete your willpower and ability to cope with stressful situations.