Deemed as “the most wonderful time of the year,” the holidays can be quite stressful and triggering for those in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). The season “to drink and be merry” is filled with all sorts of holiday-themed cocktails at work parties, eggnog at friendly get-togethers, and an open bottle of wine at family events. In fact, December is deemed one of the deadliest months in terms of alcohol-related deaths due to excessive drinking – both in celebration and as a way to cope with added holiday stress.
So how does one focus on staying sober during the holidays? Our team believes it is by identifying and utilizing appropriate coping skills developed through advanced addiction treatment.
Staying Sober During the Holidays
Whether you are fresh out of treatment or have maintained your sobriety long-term, you likely know that recovery is a lifelong journey. But maintained sobriety is possible – even during the holiday season.
At Wellbridge, we not only treat SUD, we also focus on preparing patients for life after treatment. Setting our patients up for long-term sobriety with the tools and skills to prevent relapse is one of our foundational beliefs. Throughout a patient’s treatment plan, our team works with them to identify and develop coping skills to leverage in different situations in order to maintain their sobriety.
Here are six coping skills that may be helpful for staying sober during the holidays:
- Delay the decision: When feeling triggered or experiencing urges use alcohol, put off making that decision for just 15 minutes. Many urges will go away if you do not give in immediately. Use that 15 minutes to remind yourself that the strength of the urge will decrease if you remain strong and wait it out.
- Use grounding techniques: Grounding techniques take an individual through their 5 senses, helping them remain in the current moment rather than focusing on the thoughts that are urging use. Grounding techniques are a highly powerful coping skill that allow an individual to remain grounded in the present moment and tune in with their surroundings – focusing on the true holiday spirit rather than the urge to drink.
- Change your thoughts: Managing thoughts about using can help an individual cope with the urges. Some ways to change your thoughts about using are:
- Find new thoughts to challenge the current thoughts that lead to use. For example, “My track record has proven that I cannot have one drink and then stop.” The more you challenge the thoughts that allow for use, the more comfortable you will get in utilizing this technique.
- Think about the benefits of recovery. Thinking through the positive consequences of not using will help to weaken the urge to use drugs or alcohol.
- Think about the negative consequences. Reminding one’s self about what they can lose and how using will negatively impact their future can be helpful in curbing the impulse to use. Some individuals find it helpful to carry a card that lists both positive and negative consequences to serve as a reminder.
- Do something else: Finding a healthy activity that one can do immediately and enjoys interrupts the thought process and distracts the individual from the urge to use. Healthy activities can be enjoyable and provide a sense of accomplishment. These activities should occur in a space safe from triggers.
- Utilize deep breathing exercises: Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. It is a wonderful coping skill to prevent relapse as it can be used anywhere without anyone around knowing.
- Lean on a sober support system: It is crucial that an individual battling SUD has a sober support system that they can utilize. Attending support groups such as AA, NA and Smart Recovery during the holiday season can provide a safe place for an individual to discuss their triggers. Having a sponsor or a trustworthy person who is supportive of their recovery that they can contact when triggers occur can provide the extra support that one may need when facing relapse. When attending a holiday event, having someone there to support your sobriety is monumental.
Your Sobriety Matters
When the holiday season is over and a new year begins, knowing that you participated in the holiday cheer while putting your sobriety first will be an amazing way to end your year. That is absolutely something to be proud of!
If you experience relapse during this season, know that relapse does happen. However, it shouldn’t be considered a sign of failure or a reason to give up on sobriety!
If you or a loved one are struggling this holiday season, or fear relapse, reach out to our team at Wellbridge for advanced support. Our team is here to help you through this holiday season.