The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone, what with gift-giving, travel and keeping up with all the different parts of the increasingly complicated modern family unit. For the 21 million Americans living with at least one addiction and for those in recovery, the holiday time can be an especially difficult, stressful and challenging time. But whether it’s spending time with family at Christmas or going abroad on vacation, there are things you can do to ensure you can enjoy a healthy and happy holiday period.
Why The Holidays Can Be A Struggle For Addicts
While the holidays can bring pressures for everyone, for addicts the same issues of family, money and general holiday stress can be amplified. This is often because they are the same issues that lie at the root of their addiction and the start of their problems in the first place. Stress can cause many people to relapse, and old behaviors can come back to the surface as a way of coping with it. It’s impossible to eliminate all stressors from your life, so it’s crucial that you have effective strategies to deal with them. You can develop positive strategies to deal with stress, such as mindfulness and meditation, eating healthily and exercising. It’s important that you find ways to be able to get a positive handle on your feelings when stress occurs so that you have a healthy way of coping with it.
Avoid Relapse During Time With Family
Most people know what the potential issues are that could arise within their families during the holidays. Therefore, you can do some preparation in advance. If you know that your family will likely ask you lots of uncomfortable questions, then practice some appropriate answers ahead of time. However, it’s important that you don’t feel obligated to discuss any part of your recovery that you aren’t comfortable with talking about. If your family tends to focus on achievements or tends to bring up old stories that can feel triggering or shameful, then practice your reactions in advance. Being prepared can really help you to tame your body and brain’s natural stress responses. Also, if you know that you will likely encounter people or events that previously played a role in addictive behaviors, then think about how you will deal with these situations, including how you will turn down any substances that are offered. Take the contact information for your therapist, support group or your sponsor so you can call them if you begin to feel like you can’t cope or need their advice.
Plan Ahead For Challenges On Vacation
Being in recovery shouldn’t stop you from going on holiday, but it does mean you need to take extra precautions. Many addicts often let their guard down when it comes to protecting their recovery when abroad. Make sure you know how to deal with any triggers, which may include hunger, anger, loneliness or tiredness. Research your vacation destination thoroughly and consider somewhere that’s known for its scenic beauty or cultural history rather than its party culture. The perfect destination for anyone often combines relaxation and interesting activities: balance is important to managing energy levels and enjoying your vacation to the full. If you plan a particularly busy day looking at different tourist attractions or taking part in some activities, perhaps give yourself the next day to relax. Booking a longer vacation gives you more time to enjoy your destination and avoid feeling rushed, especially if you have a long plane journey.
Keep In Touch With Support Network
Before you set off on your vacation, find an addiction support group in the area you will be going to. This can help you avoid relapse while away on holiday, as well as keeping you motivated and giving your recovery journey a fresh new perspective. You should also let your family and your addiction support group at home know about your plans to go abroad on holiday. While you’re away, try to stay in touch with these people so you still have an active support network, even while you’re away from home. It’s also important to give some careful thought as to who you will be traveling with. Anyone that wants a wild party holiday may not be in the best position to help you avoid this scene or support you if you feel that you may relapse. Pick those friends and family members who are happy to stay sober with you.
When you’re in recovery, it’s important to remember that you’re the one in control. It’s no one else’s responsibility to keep you sober. However, with some careful planning and preemptive strikes on your part, you can avoid the negative triggers and look forward to enjoying a happy and healthy holiday.