The holidays are fast approaching and some of us are happily anticipating the smells, tastes, sights, and the sounds of warm family gatherings. For others, the holidays bring about stress that can be overwhelming and therefore, just the thought of holiday can create a sense of dread or concern. Many in recovery may be triggered by the tingling of the senses to relapse. Many of us who are not connected to family or may still feel isolated due to the pandemic quarantines may be venerable during this time. Often people will use substances as a means, although unhealthy, to reduce stress and numb loneliness.
There are many articles on-line that list different tips on how to handle the holidays to avoid relapse. Most emphasize the importance to preplan to minimize risk of relapse. The thing is, all of us dealing with a substance use disorder and those of us who are not, do not need alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs as the main focal point in celebrating the holidays.
So, what does preplanning mean in regards to managing the holidays? First, we must recognize those triggers. For those early in recovery, it may take some time to figure out the places, people, behaviors, and senses that may trigger you to want to use. From there, rate the risks involved in each trigger situation and plan from there.
An article in Every Day Health, suggests to start each day with a plan to avoid relapse. During the holidays plan to spend more time in those situations that create less risk to conjure up your triggers and less in situations where you are more likely to be at a higher risk to be triggered. If possible, drive yourself, the article recommends, so you can control when to arrive and when to leave.
Sometimes we need to change the landscape a bit. Include some exercise prior to or during the gathering and consider engaging in group activities like cards, trivia, or board games. Try to bring the celebration to you so that you can control this environment. If this is not an option, consider reaching out to family to let them know what you need.
Positive self-talk, and relaxation techniques can help in refocusing your mind to staying the course. Certainly, reach out to those people that you have identified as your support. The thing is, we all need each other.