Oh, the holidays – full of optimism and cheer! The time of year where people are inherently kinder and more giving toward those around them, and willing to go above and beyond to help their fellow man.

Special moments are shared during holiday get-togethers where carols are sung, bread is broken, and drinks are inevitably offered. When these moments of temptation arise, it is imperative for recovering addicts to have a strong support base and established personal motivation in order to overcome the impulse to relapse and maintain their achieved sobriety.

How can you help your loved one enjoy the holiday season while avoiding addictive triggers?

Understanding their emotional state and how their personal experiences impact their addictive impulses and decision-making can better enable you to intervene when your loved one is struggling. This requires effective communication with your loved one in order to establish a channel of conversation well before the temptation to relapse arises.

Achieving this is as easy as communicating with your loved one on a consistent basis, discussing everything from daily experiences to personal hardships in order to best facilitate substantive dialogue when addictive triggers rear their ugly head.

Holidays and Depression

While a majority of people experience elation around the holidays, the expectations of interacting with droves of people can be a bit much for a recovering addict. Add to that the constant pressure to imbibe with friends and family and the perpetual temptations associated with the holiday season can force your loved one to regress socially and emotionally.

Experiencing depression around the holidays is fairly common among those recovering from addiction and can be traced to a number of influencing factors that include:

  • Stress – This can be associated with the pressures of shopping for gifts or planning and attending holiday events. Either way, the stress associated with the holidays is a common instigating factor for depressive symptomatology among a recovering addict.
  • Finances – The additional costs associated with the holidays can cause a person to feel overwhelmed and overburdened. Not having enough money to buy people gifts can result in guilt, sadness, and even shame.
  • Grief – While the holidays are a great time to reconnect with loved ones, they can also exacerbate the effects of missing a loved one who is no longer here. Dwelling on those we miss most is common around the holiday season and a powerful catalyst for depressive feelings.
  • SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder is a common experience for many people around the holidays. The shortened days and colder temps can leave most yearning for the warmth and glow of summer. For those struggling with addiction, SAD can result in a desire to fall back on old stress management techniques, pushing them toward relapse and increasing their feelings of guilt and depression.

Whichever personal experience is exacerbating your loved one’s depressive symptomatology, you can help them by simply being there to provide support and encouragement. Sometimes, a kind word goes a long way and reminding your loved one of how much they are cherished can be just what they need to brighten their day.

3 Primary Ways the Holidays Can Trigger Your Loved One to Use or Relapse

Similar to the way in which the holidays can increase the potential for depressive symptoms and excessive emotionality, the holiday season can be a potent facilitator for substance relapse.

Understanding how this time of year impacts your loved one’s addictive triggers and increases their temptation to use again can aid in diverting their maladaptive impulses before they overcome your loved one’s willpower. Three ways in which the holidays can trigger your loved one’s relapse include:

  1. Increased Emotional Stress
    The holidays are filled with happiness, but the pressures to buy the perfect gifts or host the perfect parties can become overwhelming very quickly. These pressures can result in feelings of depression and anxiety, forcing your loved one to deal with excessive emotional stress – increasing their likelihood to relapse.
  2. Toasting to the Holidays
    Holiday parties are synonymous with the holiday season. From work parties to family get-togethers to friends meeting up to celebrate the season, the opportunities to drink and cut loose are excessively prevalent. Maintaining your sobriety during this time of year can become an act of attrition due to the constant encouragement to participate in substance use by everyone around you.
  3. Family Conflict
    While the holidays are typically full of love and happiness, for some, interacting with certain family members can result in finger pointing or even serious verbal conflict. Add the increased potential for alcohol consumption to the mix and the stressors associated with potential family conflict can result in your loved one relapsing.

Holiday Relapse Prevention Strategies

Actively working to help your loved one prevent a relapse around this time of year requires proactive measures and constant encouragement. Taking the time to construct a game plan with your loved one can aid in addressing stress-inducing scenarios or excessive emotionality before they become too big to handle.

Implementing the following techniques can effectively prevent unnecessary relapse and increase the likelihood that your loved one maintains their sobriety throughout the entire holiday season.

  • Establish a Healthy Holiday Routine
    Physical activity and practiced mindfulness can go a long way to not only decreasing addictive triggers, but also increasing long-term sobriety and success.Constructing a healthy routine greatly decreases negative emotionality and improves personal perspectives and relapse prevention.Here is what the routine can include:

      • Set times to get your blood pumping throughout the week
      • Make efforts to find a quiet space to clear your thoughts and focus on your breathing
      • Do a minimum of two things per week that are just for fun and just for you (like going to a sporting event or going to see a movie); focus on self-care and self-enjoyment

    These techniques will work wonders for your mind, body, and soul.

  • Make a Habit to Have a Plan
    Taking the time each day to contemplate the ways in which your sobriety will be tested, and how you can overcome the temptations, is an amazingly effective technique. This can include formulating responses to turn down people offering you a drink or how you can avoid engaging in verbal conflict with certain individuals. While the effort may seem difficult, once the habit is established, it will become second-nature to practice establishing a plan and implementing it when the need arises.

Holistic Addiction Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery

If your loved one does relapse or start using heavily this holiday season, we understand how devastating that situation can be for you.

You can exhaust every avenue and resource to help your loved one quit abusing and get clean. But, ultimately, an addict’s recovery must start with them recognizing they have a problem and wanting to get better.

However, your love and unwavering support, help and advocacy could be the very things your loved one needs to wake up and realize it’s time to get help.

Offering an alternative to the traditional twelve-step program, Ranch Creek Recovery offers a variety of all-encompassing, holistic in-patient treatment services. Your loved one’s situation is unique; their
treatment must be customized to fit their individual recovery needs.

Learn more about Ranch Creek Recovery, including what we offer and what we treat.

Have questions? We’re here to help. Contact us today.