Holiday Relapse Triggers & How To Avoid Them

Holiday Relapse Triggers And How To Avoid Them



Tips and techniques for staying clean and sober this holiday season

The holiday season is a time of celebration, friends, family, and giving. However for recovering addicts, this time of the year can be particularly difficult. Temptations surround us, whether we’re in the mall, at the office holiday party, or at a gathering of our friends and family, Many sufferers of addiction find themselves at a crossroads during this season , facing many holiday relapse triggers.  However, this is the time of year for those in recovery programs and addiction treatment to be more proactive in their recovery process. Giving in to temptation during the holidays (or any other time) will only set you back in your treatment and recovery, making it more difficult to get back on track.

Identifying Your Holiday Relapse Triggers

Recognizing the holiday relapse triggers that may threaten your sobriety,  is one of many important components of addiction recovery. These holiday relapse triggers may include, though are not limited to:

  • Financial Stress

Money issues are known to be a notorious relapse trigger, and are especially potent as holiday relapse triggers. Many addicts often revert back to damaging behaviors as a method of coping with the financial stress that often accompanies the holiday season. Financial consultant Manisha Thakor wrote in Forbes Magazine that it is often necessary to “reboot” traditional thinking and “come up with a new game plan on how to joyfully participate in the holiday season” in a way to feels right and is financially responsible and appropriate to you.  This includes setting a daily strategy, a workable budget, and most importantly, constantly measuring your progress.

  • Family Issues

For many people in recovery programs, this is the one of the biggest holiday relapse trigger and stressors that can be associated with the holiday season. Ken Duckworth, MD, the medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Health notes on WebMD that “holiday gatherings with family are supposed to be joyful and stress-free, and that’s not often the case,” adding that family relationships are “complicated” and there is the possibility that old wounds can be re-opened, especially when there is a strong family history of alcohol and drug abuse. For sufferers of addiction, it could be helpful to avoid family functions altogether, and if that’s not possible, suggesting a new tradition and trying something else could be the saving grace in stressful family situation.

Don’t expect any miracles, you may be better off focusing on your own state-of-mind and confronting difficult issues during a less volatile time of year. ~ Dr Duckworth

  • Time and Scheduling Disruptions

The holidays are a busy time of year for many of us, with crowded shopping trips and increased demands from spouse, children, and work. All of these stress factors can easily add up and be holiday relapse triggers. Many people in addiction recovery programs rely on disciplined personalized schedules to get them through the day.  Any deviation from that routine can create stressors which possibly lead to relapse. We become so busy during this time that we often forget to savor the many pleasurable holiday moments. Taking a few moments to yourself can take away much of the holiday stress, and then you’ll be able to see, smell, and taste all that the holidays have to offer.

  • Holiday Parties

For many addicts and alcoholics in recovery programs, even the thought of a holiday party can trigger a thought of relapse, and it’s unfortunate that so many holiday gatherings provide the very thing that addicts want so badly to stay from. The holidays also provide endless opportunities for clean and sober festivities, so maybe its best just to skip the holiday parties where you know alcohol or other drugs will be available. Twelve Step communities of AA or NA often provide sober dances and gatherings, as well as round the clock meetings for these extra challenges. Get involved!

Methods to Surviving the Holiday Relapse Triggers

One of the key components to addiction therapy is learning to coping with the inevitable urge to use again. With proper management and learning new life skills, sufferers of addiction learn how to combat these triggers in treatment programs and centers. The holiday season is a great time to sharpen these learned skills and put them to the test. Some of the best ways alcoholics or addicts can manage their holiday relapse triggers include:

  • Stick to your Treatment or Recovery Plan

Don’t let the holidays hinder what you’ve accomplished so far. While there are many distractions this time of the year, stay mindful to what you’ve accomplished. Every day is a new day, even during the holidays.

  • Making and Sticking to a Schedule and Budget

Staying mindful to your time and budget this holiday season is the best way to avoid any unnecessary financial and emotional stress. The important thing is to stick to your recovery treatment plan. Many recovering addicts find a rejuvenating sense of accomplishment when celebrating the holidays with their new and improved outlook on life, enjoying the enchanting sights and sounds that were so often dulled by the use of alcohol and other substances.

  • Increased Meditation

A little extra time on the cushion, or your preferred meditation spot, could be the best gift that you give to yourself this year. An extra 20 minutes of breathing and mindfulness will help you focus and allow you to stay on track. Mindfulness techniques can help manage relapse triggers tremendously.

  • Skip the gatherings that may include drugs or alcohol

Do not be afraid to say ‘no’ when you are invited to gatherings where there is an increased chance for relapse. Let your family and friends know that you are keeping the commitment to yourself to stay clean and sober.

  • H.A.L.T. for the Holidays

In many addiction treatment centers and 12-step programs there is a group of high-risk situations referred to by the acronym, HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. Mary Foston-English, MFT, assistant director of Stanford University’s Faculty and Staff Help Center wrote that if any of the adjectives apply, then you are at an increased chance for relapse.

When you feel one of these [triggers] take time to stop, breathe, and take care of yourself – and the holidays will be much more enjoyable and manageable. ~ Mary Foston -English

Staying Clean And Sober Through The Holidays And All Through The Year

Serenity Vista Addiction Recovery Retreat in Panama offers a holistic, professional, full integration model of treatment for addiction. Located in the tropical mountain highlands of Central Panama, Serenity Vista’s venue is clean, fresh, green and tranquil. Lots of people chose wisely to get addiction help, or a refresher, during the holiday season. We encourage you to pay attention to recovery tips for staying clean and sober. The very very best gift you can give your loved ones is a healthy you. Consider private pay treatment that is concerned about your recovery, not the bottom line of share-holders. Recovery is a gift, but you must be ready and willing to receive it.

Most important, stay close to your support system. Call your sponsor, and talk through your plans and discuss any holiday party invitations. Go to lots of 12 step meetings. Practice your daily meditation. Stay close to the fellowship. Remember: you are not alone. And recovery comes first, or nothing comes second!

If you are struggling with getting or staying sober this Christmas, there are many reasons why this is a good time of year to seek help (click here).

Wishing you and your loved ones a safe, sober, and very Merry Christmas and Holiday Season! (click here)



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