For most people, the holiday season represents a time to gather with family and loved ones, eat delicious and comforting food, exchange gifts, honor their culture or religion and reflect on the year. It creates a sense of enormous comfort on which they can count year after year, even in the face of chaos. For those in recovery, however, the holidays can represent a source of great anxiety, and heightened vulnerability to relapse. In order to protect ourselves against relapse during the holiday season, it helps to understand some of the unique triggers that this time of year can create.
Common Causes of Relapse during the Holidays
There are numerous factors that can lead a person in recovery toward relapse during the holiday season. One of the most common factors is family-related stress. It can be very difficult, particularly for someone who is brand new to the recovery process, to reintegrate themselves back into their family dynamic after treatment. This year, many in recovery will be seeing extended family for the first time since they stopped actively engaging in substance abuse; these encounters, and the memories they often elicit can take a tremendous emotional toll.
Often tied to the family trigger is the financial pressure of having to purchase gifts. As many in recovery are aware, addiction can severely derail our careers and impact our finances. While our loved ones will undoubtedly understand our financial situation, that may not stop us from feeling guilty and fixating on the work we’ve yet to do in our post-treatment lives. Another common relapse pitfall during the holiday season is the presence of alcohol at celebrations. For many, celebration and drinking are synonymous, and we have to assess our readiness to be around liquor and those who are drinking.
Forming A Game Plan
Avoiding relapse during the holidays is easier when we are honest with ourselves about our vulnerability and readiness to face potentially stressful and tempting circumstances. It may be that we need to scale back celebration this year in the interest of our recovery—we have to put ourselves first. If we decide we’re going to full-throatedly embrace traditional celebration this year, it’s a good idea to increase our attendance at meetings, keep in close contact with our sponsor therapist and support system and keep performing self-diagnostics to assess our vulnerability. Face the Music Foundation wishes everyone a safe, happy and sober holiday season.