How to Avoid Relapse During The Holiday Season [2021 Guide]
The holidays are not always a fun time for everyone. Many people in addiction recovery cannot join in on holiday festivities throughout the holiday parties due to traditional adult parties serving alcohol.
Additionally, holiday depression is a struggle for many people, whether they have a history of addiction or not. People in recovery often experience an abundance of triggers throughout the holiday season. Not only is it painful to feel excluded, but holiday depression can tempt a recovering person to relapse.
Staying sober during the holidays can be challenging, but there are holiday relapse prevention tips available to help you fight the temptation to use drugs. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, especially around the holiday season, consider calling us today at (385) 327-7418. For more information on rehab programs.
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Patricia Sullivan, MD MPH
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The Deadliest Holidays
It is no surprise to say that the holidays can be incredibly stressful. However, holiday traffic and traveling can be found among the top stressors beyond the decorations and party guest lists. Amid the hustle and bustle, alcohol is an ultimate selling party favor that can add risks and danger to the holiday celebration. According to a five-year study, New Year’s Day is the second most dangerous American holiday, with an average of 118 deaths per year, with 62% involving alcohol-related crashes. Deadly holidays can cause chaos in their wake, ruining the joys and celebrations of the holiday. Alcohol is especially prevalent during these times, making it extremely difficult for those recovering from alcoholism to cope.
Holiday Heart Syndrome
In addition to holiday travel accidents, the holidays tend to affect bodily health as well. Your heart must work harder to function correctly with cakes, pies, and heavy fats in holiday foods. Furthermore, alcohol behaves similarly by adding undue stress onto your heart, inviting the risk of heart complications.
Dr. Amy Pollak of Mayo Clinic cardiology highlights the effects of atrial fibrillation, which is a health risk associated with Holiday Heart Syndrome. “So atrial fibrillation is serious,” Dr. Pollak says. “And, so, if you do feel that your heart is racing around the holidays, and it’s not just from seeing someone underneath the mistletoe, but your heart is racing from, you know, irregularity or you’re feeling short of breath … you need to seek medical attention.”
These heart complications are a direct result of excessive consumption of holiday foods and beverages, including alcohol.
Alcohol in Holidays
Americans often use alcohol to help celebrate the holidays. St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday Americans celebrate by drinking, highlighting that the “holiday season” is not limited to October through January. Therefore, it is essential to encourage holiday relapse prevention techniques all year, not solely through year-end celebrations.
There are millions of people who do not enjoy the holidays at all. The holidays signify bad memories, whereas others are saddened by having no one to celebrate with. Whatever the reason, holiday depression can hit hard, resulting in solitude versus celebration. It is in these moments that recovering addicts need the most support. The temptation to relapse may surround you, but you have worked too hard to go back now.
You Are Not Alone
It can be difficult for a recovering alcoholic to enjoy holidays that are primarily celebrated by drinking. However, it is essential to remember that you are not alone. Millions of Americans are recovering alcoholics that share their frustrations. Feelings of sadness or rejection can become overwhelming when invitations to celebrate with others have to be refused or denied due to alcohol involvement. Moreover, many people have loved ones who are unwilling to rearrange their holidays to accommodate them. This can feel like a devastating blow, accompanied by feelings of rejection or unworthiness.
Staying sober during the holidays is more important to your progress than attending a party with loved ones. Suppose you are uninvited or excluded from festivities due to alcohol prevalence. In that case, it may be time to find a new and healthier way to celebrate your success rather than become hindered by it. Remember, this is your holiday, too. No one has a right to dictate how you celebrate.
Tips on Staying Sober
Whether you are considering addiction treatment or are already on your path to recovery, toxic relationships need to exit your life. Those who would encourage your substance use, regardless of how it affects you, are not relationships you want to keep. Therefore, it is vital to seek like-minded people to encourage your growth as much as possible.
If you have loved ones who support your decision to get sober, rearranging the holiday to include you can be uplifting. For instance, rather than attending a bar event on St. Patrick’s Day, a friend may be willing to celebrate a different aspect of the holiday, such as eating Irish foods like corned beef and cabbage. In this situation, your friend may ask if ordering a beer with dinner will bother you, in which case you can answer honestly, knowing your wishes will be respected.
For some, there are no loved ones to celebrate with. Many in recovery are rejected by their families, harshly scorned for their past addiction problems. Though this is unjust, it is a harsh reality that some are forced to cope with.
To avoid holiday relapse, there are support groups such as AA that have members who struggle with the same feelings of isolation. By engaging with like-minded people, you can make a new friend and redefine what the holidays have in store for you.
Ultimately, you do not have to endure negativity from anyone. Your holidays are yours to celebrate however you choose. Staying sober during the holidays is not a weakness to be shamed, but a strength to be honored. Anyone who does not see it that way has no business participating in your celebration.
When feelings of exclusion set in, it can be easy to forget why you decided to quit doing drugs or alcohol, to begin with.
However, it is in the darkest moments of rejection that can highlight why you are being separated.
On average, over a hundred people die in alcohol-related accidents on not one, but two separate holidays each year. That does not account for all the other holidays throughout the year, where alcohol is still involved.
Choosing to recover from addiction can be dismissed as a weakness to lesser-minded individuals; however, that is the smartest thing someone can do in reality.
Alcohol can have detrimental effects on your heart, liver, brain, and pancreas. Alcoholism can be fatal if left untreated, and choosing to rise above addiction is an ethical choice.
Furthermore, there is nothing in the “rule book” that says when you should and should not celebrate. Just because there are specific days Americans celebrate, who says you can’t make your own holiday?
Create Your Own Holiday
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word “holiday” as “a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” Therefore, nothing is stopping you from declaring a holiday to celebrate yourself.
A fantastic example of this would be to declare a holiday on the anniversary of your first day not drinking. In this event, you are in charge of what you do, who you share it with, and any other details you would like to incorporate.
Furthermore, there are no limits to how you enjoy your newfound holiday. For instance, just because Christmas only comes once a year does not mean your holiday is bound to one day as well.
In your holiday, you may choose to celebrate “You Day” as the anniversary of your first day not drinking and the six-month mark later in the year. By congregating with other recovering addicts, you can enjoy your successes without worrying about coercion, judgment, or exclusion.
You have more power than you think you do, or possibly give yourself credit for. Try not to allow others’ “rules” to dictate how you celebrate yourself and live your life.
Choosing to be healthy is never a shameful decision, but instead reflects more of the person who would persuade you otherwise.
Holiday relapse prevention does not have to be lonely or exclusive, but rather a sign of your recovery progress. There will be people who accept your decision, and others that would attempt to scorn you for it.
Toxic relationships can be friends, coworkers, or even family members. If you have loved ones who are willing to accept and accommodate your decision to stay sober, there are other aspects of holidays to celebrate besides drinking.
Enjoying holiday foods and games that do not involve drinking are great ways to enjoy traditional holidays with others still.
Though many people would still revoke your invitation, you are not bound by traditional holiday rules. There are addict recovery support groups with members who experience similar frustrations and would enjoy spending time and making friends with you.
Furthermore, declaring a holiday for yourself is an empowering move. In a self-declared holiday, you are entitled to create an environment that you choose. Celebrate your success as many times a year as you want to, remembering that it’s your holiday and your rules.
If you or someone you know is struggling to fight relapse over the holidays, or any other day, consider reaching out to an addiction admissions specialist that can help you find outpatient treatment. Call (385) 327-7418 for more information!
Just remember to pay attention to your guest list and try not to be held down by old holiday “rules.”
To speak with someone about your situation and get a free consultation, call us at (385) 327-7418 today!
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