One week from today will mark the official start of the holiday season, at least according to the retail industry. For some of us this means making travel plans, getting gifts, performing good works, reconnecting with our families and preparing large meals. For those in recovery, however, the holidays can often mean trying to keep their heads above water as they face increased vulnerability to relapse. While the holidays are meant to be a joyful, easy and cherished experience, they can often bring to bare a variety of elements that can trigger emotional distress for those who have overcome drug or alcohol addiction. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to:
The Presence of Alcohol – The world doesn’t stop because we’re in recovery, and the same can be said for our friends and families. Alcohol is a fact of life and will continue to flow, no matter how long we’ve spent in recovery. Ultimately, it’s up to us to assess our readiness and determine our level of vulnerability when we’re around others who drink. There’s nothing wrong with being honest with ourselves and saying that we just can’t do it this year.
Family Interaction – The holidays dramatically increase the likelihood that we encounter extended family. It’s entirely possible that the last time we saw that distant aunt, uncle or cousin, we were actively engaging in substance abuse and thus, not the best version of ourselves. This can understandably create anxiety and cause us to feel nervous, scared and vulnerable.
Financial Troubles – Though we’d like to think the holidays are about “peace on earth and good will toward men”, many choose to make them more about “zero down and five years to pay”. For those who have not yet had the opportunity to get their career on track, this could be especially difficult.
No matter what adversity or vulnerability we face during the holiday season, it’s important to remember that we’re stronger than addiction. We have a variety of tools in our arsenal to help prevent relapse and keep ourselves on track. Whether it’s keeping our therapists or sponsors on speed-dial, avoiding gatherings where we think we may have a problem or fulfilling our holiday spirit in other ways like volunteering at a local charity, we’ve got this.