Overcoming addiction is more of a lifestyle than something accomplished in a short period of time. As drug counselors and long-time recovered addicts know, particular triggers make it easy to feel vulnerable and make bad decisions. Triggers come in the form of people, places, and things. A buddy who you used to get high with may inspire urges just as much as a particular time of year. The holidays are stressful on all people. For recovering addicts, the holidays and associated stress makes it hard to stay away from drugs and alcohol and stay on the righteous path.
As mentioned, any variety of trigger, such as stress, creates temptation. While it’s hard to fight temptation, it’s easier to avoid it. Start shopping, decorating, sending cards, and a doing a bunch chores related to the holidays early. That way, you’ll be less stressed the time of year approaches. While others are running around trying to get things done, you’ll remain focused, knowing you acted early.
Let’s face it. The holidays have become a commercialized, month-long frenzy. The holidays are not about the biggest gift, shopping, or anything material. It’s supposed to be a time of year to relax and spend time with friends and family. Such a sentiment should not have any pressure related to it. Yet, the media and manufacturers create this tension, which results in palpable pressure affecting consumers. However, you don’t have to fall victim to the hooplah. Take the pressure off yourself this year by focusing on what matters: your health, family, and friends. Such focus does not need to have anything to do with money, presents, shopping, and partying.
If you are going to be around old friends and places related to temptation, bring along a new buddy who can help keep you sober and resisting the urge to drink or take drugs. Avoiding triggers is more easily said than done during the holiday, for you may need to go back to a hometown, see former associates, and be around those who are drinking and/or taking drugs. Of course, you have the power to say “no,” and it will be easier to accomplish when someone is there to support that decision.
If you think the temptation to be at a holiday party or see particular people will be too great, you can escape by working more or taking a trip to another place. No one has to know your true reasons. You can state that a boss has you working overtime through the holidays or you need to make the extra money. Alternatively, you can say that a friend from another state offered to fly you out to spend the holidays with them even though you’ll be taking the time to remain healthy. Even if you think there’s a slight chance you’ll be tempted to make a poor decision, it’s best to attempt to avoid the situation altogether.
If you’re associated with a recovery program and attend meetings, go to more of them as the holiday approaches. The added time there will help keep you focused and around those who can relate yet also choose to stay healthy rather than relapse. If you’ve been recovering alone but think you can use the support of others, research an alcohol recovery centre. Many people want to make better choices and seeking help is nothing to be ashamed about. Actually, it’s something to be proud of.
You may not like the idea of attending a party where people will be drinking, but don’t want to be rude. You always have the option of showing up early so you can leave before the party gets out of hand and drinkers get heavy handed. Depending on where you are with your recovery, it may be a positive step to show yourself that you can go to a party and stay sober. Being sober doesn’t limit the fun you have or sour the conversations with others. However, showing up first gives you an “out” if you feel temptation creeping in.
Rather than be an attendant at a party or gathering, think about volunteering at a soup kitchen, children’s hospital, or food drive. There are always plenty of volunteers needed during the holidays, times when it’s easier to be selfish and forget there are those in need. Doing something for others will take the focus off of your own temptation and keep you busy helping others, which will make you feel good and increase your own sense of self esteem.
Judy Matthews works in adult counseling and likes to share his insights with an online audience. His articles mainly appear on health and lifestyle websites and blogs.