For most people, the holidays represent a time to gather with loved ones, celebrate each other, exchange gifts and create lasting memories. For those in recovery, however, this time of year can often represent added stress and the heightened possibility of relapse. With another holiday season upon us, it’s worth examining the causes and triggers of potential relapse that are magnified during this time of year, as well as ways to develop a plan of action and survival to stay on track. There is a marked uptick in relapse during the holidays and it’s important that you or your loved one stay protected.
What Can Trigger Relapse during the Holidays?
Recovering addicts can encounter stress from a number of sources during the holidays. For starters, the holidays very often involve getting together with immediate and extended family. Many of us in recovery are still struggling to reintegrate ourselves back into our everyday family dynamic. We may be seeing an aunt, uncle or cousin for the first time since we were actively abusing substances, and that can trigger dysfunctional or stressful memories. Relating to family can be stressful under the most ordinary of circumstances; for recovering addicts, the difficulty is often compounded and can lead to anxiety and depression.
Another potential source of stress during the holiday season is the enormous financial pressure of buying gifts. Many in recovery are still in the process of rebuilding their finances and getting their jobs or careers back on track. Even if their loved ones understand why they aren’t able to lavish them with gifts this year, it may not stop recovering addicts from feeling any less guilty or excluded from the process. One more glaring relapse trigger is the pervasive presence of alcohol during celebrations. Ultimately, it’s up to the addict to determine their readiness level to be around those who are actively drinking.
Tools for Holiday Success
Self-awareness is one of the most basic tools recovering addicts have against relapse. It may be that you’re simply not prepared to face the pressures of a large-scale holiday celebration. In this case, it’s critical that they’re honest with themselves and choose to scale things back this year. If you’re feeling like you’re ready, you should keep in close contact with your support systems and therapists so you can consult them when feeling particularly vulnerable. It may also be good idea to increase attendance at recovery meetings and voice your concerns to other members for support. Recovery Unplugged wishes everyone a safe, happy and sober holiday.