The holidays can be difficult for anyone, but the season can pose unique challenges for those struggling with addiction. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that December and January are two of the most dangerous months for drug- and alcohol-related deaths. This post will explore why the holiday season may make maintaining sobriety difficult and what you can do to get help if necessary.
Does the Holiday Season Trigger Drug Addiction?
The link between addiction and the holidays has been widely established. Many people who suffer from addiction are more prone to misuse drugs and alcohol when exposed to specific triggers, and unfortunately, the holiday season is fraught with them. Here are some possible triggers that people with substance misuse disorder must be on the lookout for during the holiday season.
General Holiday Stress
The holidays can be a joyous time, but the hustle and bustle they bring can be stressful for many people. Just trying to juggle holiday parties, work-related social commitments, decorating, gift shopping, wrapping gifts, cooking & baking, and other time-consuming tasks can cause stress that leave you wanting to turn to drugs or alcohol for relief.
During the holiday season, it’s common to look back on previous years and think about people who are no longer with us. Grief over the death of a loved one or a divorce may return during the holidays, even years after a loss occurs. For some people, the anger and sadness that grief brings can trigger substance abuse.
If you have strained relationships with family members, you may be able to avoid them throughout the year. However, the holidays can bring pressure to come together. This may mean being thrust into family tension and drama which can easily trigger a relapse.
Alcohol consumption during the holidays is prevalent. Drinking may occur at office parties and family gatherings, leaving those with substance misuse disorders feeling awkward and left out. Plus, having easy access to free alcohol can bring temptation and trigger cravings that are difficult to ignore.
Between gift shopping, holiday tipping, and buying groceries for parties and gatherings, expenses can quickly add up during this time of year. People living paycheck to paycheck may experience financial stress that they could try to escape through drugs or alcohol.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
December 21st is the shortest day of the year. Less daylight can put a damper on your mood, and for some people, it can lead to varying levels of depression. Some people with substance misuse may also suffer from seasonal affective disorder or SAD. This mental health condition occurs when levels of brain chemicals become imbalanced due to a lack of sunlight, and it can cause many of the same symptoms as clinical depression. Individuals with SAD may try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol during the holiday season.
Many people love that the holiday season is a time for togetherness. However, people with a generalized or social anxiety disorder may dread spending time in large groups or attending social events. These individuals may turn to drugs and alcohol to help them loosen up or feel more relaxed in social settings.
Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays
To help stay sober during the holidays, follow these tips:
- Don’t overextend yourself – You don’t have to accept every invitation.
- Create an escape plan to gracefully exit situations that might cause you to misuse substances.
- Set realistic expectations for the season so that you’re not disappointed.
- Volunteer your time to stay busy during the season.
- Offer to help in the kitchen during holiday gatherings so you’re less inclined to feel tempted to drink.
- Take care of yourself. Exercise regularly, get enough rest, and practice relaxation techniques.
- Get professional help if you need it. Attend support group meetings, enroll in an outpatient rehab program, or check yourself into in-patient rehab if necessary
Seeking Help for Addiction During the Holidays
Many businesses will close during the holidays, but The Dunes East Hampton’s doors remain open throughout the season. If you’re struggling to maintain sobriety, we’re here to help. Addiction recovery during the holidays is difficult, but it is possible with the proper support. We offer in-patient and intensive outpatient therapy programs to help you overcome addiction to stay free of drugs and alcohol in the future. Contact us today at (888) 621-5968 and speak to a counselor to take the first step toward getting the help that can benefit you during the holidays and beyond.