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 eat, 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. Holidays are particularly dangerous due to excessive drinking – both in celebration and as a way to cope with additional stress.
So how does one focus on staying sober during the holidays? Wellbridge believes it is by identifying and utilizing appropriate coping skills developed through advanced addiction treatment.
Staying Sober During the Holidays
Whether you are newly sober or have maintained your sobriety long-term, you likely know that recovery is a lifelong journey. While challenging, maintaining 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 guiding principles. Throughout the treatment process, our team works with patients to help them identify and develop coping skills they can leverage in a variety of 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 to 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 them to use. Grounding techniques are a powerful coping skill that allow an individual to remain in the present moment and tune into their surroundings. Examples might include appreciating a holiday light display, savoring the smell of cookies baking in the oven, or listening to your favorite holiday music.
- 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 ones 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 yourself about what you can lose and how using will negatively impact your 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 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 is discreet, allowing it to be used in a variety of situations.
- 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 supportive sponsor or a trustworthy person 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
Staying sober during the holidays can be an empowering feat. When the 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!
It is important to remember that recovery is a journey and that relapses do occur. More importantly, a relapse doesn’t mean that you are a failure or that you should 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.