Recovery From Addiction During the Holiday Season
The holidays are supposed to be the happiest times leading to the New Year. While it may be the season for gathering with friends and family and for being merry, this time of year can often be accompanied by seemingly sky-high expectations. Setting goals we want to achieve into a brand new year and starting afresh.
An applicable survey showed that more than half of the participants experienced heightened levels of stress during the holidays. For recovering addicts, the holidays can prove extra challenging and be rife with triggers. But, there certainly are ways to cope with holiday stress without using drugs or relapsing. Use our 10-holiday stress tips to help you with addiction recovery for the New Year and beyond.
Recovery from addiction, a chronic, relapse-prone disorder, is a lifelong dynamic process. Get tips and learn relapse prevention best practices that can help you avoid falling victim to substance abuse relapse during the festive holiday season.
10 Tips For Addiction Recovery For The New Year
Relapse Prevention Tips
1. Start Each Day with a Schedule
Having structure has been shown to play a big role in overcoming addiction. Maintaining a schedule can help prevent your day-to-day from feeling so hectic, but most importantly, it’ll allow you to start and end each day with a feeling of control. Pencil in everything from travel time to meals, you might find that you’ve overbooked yourself which might cause undue stress. If you see a lot of gaps in your schedule, that brings us to tip #2…
2. Keep Yourself Busy
Having too much time on your hands can lead to boredom, and can be a recipe for relapse if the holidays already have you feeling down. Keep your hands and mind occupied with activities that bring you joy. These can include social gatherings or more solo activities like yoga, knitting, watching tv, or working out. Use this time to devote yourself to your passions or to find some new ones.
3. Get Some Sunlight
Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is no laughing matter. It’s well documented that mental health and substance abuse have a closely tied relationship. Even if this type of depression is only seasonal, the impact it has on overall well-being is far-reaching. The winter blues is estimated to affect millions each year often in the form of feelings of hopelessness, overall disinterest, difficulty concentrating, or even thoughts of suicide. To combat these negative feelings, strive to get at least 20-30 minutes of sunshine a day. If you live in a climate that does not allow for significant sun exposure, a sun lamp is the next best thing.
4. Prepare Responses
One of the biggest sources of holiday stress can come from interacting with others in a social setting. If you’ll be interacting with people you haven’t seen in a while, you may be dreading the inevitable questions about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. Depending on your relationship with your social groups you may not feel comfortable telling them that you have been in rehab – much less explaining why you can’t drink with them. Before such gatherings, plan your explanations to the common questions beforehand and decide on how much you feel comfortable disclosing.
5. Leave When You Feel Uncomfortable
Speaking of preparing responses, come up with some excuses that you can use to gracefully bow out when you’re in an uncomfortable situation. Be this a conversation or a gathering, sticking it out and putting yourself in a heightened state of stress or anxiety is not worth it. Stress is one of the most well-known risk factors in the development of addiction and relapse. It may feel selfish, but it’s important that you put your physical, and mental well-being before holiday traditions or niceties.
6. Enlist Your Support System
Don’t forget to tap into your support system to help you get through the New Year. They can serve as your sober partner at social functions or simply be a friendly ear that you can call in times of boredom, having someone who knows your situation and can help talk you through it can be a huge sense of relief. Before the holidays are in full swing let your support system know that you will probably be reaching out more than usual so that they can expect your calls.
7. Don’t Stop Attending Meetings
Don’t let the holidays interrupt your group meetings. Now more than ever, it’s important to have a sense of community and a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Sobriety is hard and the holidays make it even harder, tap into the resource that is your fellow group therapy or 12 step members. They’ve likely been through exactly what you’re going through now and can offer invaluable advice on how to get through the holidays without relapsing.
8. Make Your Sobriety Streak Prominent
Visual reminders can be a valuable source of motivation. If you’re the type of person who’s encouraged by having hard numbers associated with your accomplishments, something like a countdown tracker could be helpful in keeping you motivated and on track to stay sober. There is plenty of apps and other software with customizable countdown timers that you can use to prominently display the number of days you’ve been clean.
9. Don’t Isolate Yourself
Humans are innately social creatures and the effects of isolation on mental health can be profound. There have been numerous studies on how dangerous isolation and subsequent loneliness can be. In the case of a recovering addict, it can cause extra high levels of stress significantly increasing the likelihood of relapsing. This feeling can be exacerbated if you have not told your family or other loved ones that you have gone to rehab and are undergoing treatment for your substance abuse issues.
10. Consider Your New Year’s Resolutions
Last but not least, when in doubt look to the future. Even if you don’t participate in resolutions in the traditional sense, the new year is significant as a marker of a fresh start. They say it takes 28 days to create a new habit so give yourself a running start by dedicating yourself to making the upcoming new year one of a healthier, happier you. 
Addiction is a treatable disorder. Research on the science of addiction and the treatment of substance use disorders has led to the development of research-based methods that help people to stop using drugs and resume productive lives, also known as being in recovery.
“The New Year is an opportunity to start fresh. Treating addiction is a lifelong challenge but you don’t have to do it alone!” – Ryan Zofay
Like other chronic diseases such as heart disease or asthma, treatment for drug addiction usually isn’t a cure. But addiction can be managed successfully, even during celebratory times when temptation becomes stronger.
Treatment enables people to counteract addiction’s disruptive effects on their brain and behavior and regain control of their lives.
Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply rooted behaviors, and relapse doesn’t mean treatment has failed. When a person recovering from an addiction relapse, it indicates that the person needs to speak with their doctor to resume treatment, modify it, or try another treatment.
While relapse is a normal part of recovery, for some drugs, it can be very dangerous—even deadly. If a person uses as much of the drug as they did before quitting, they can easily overdose because their bodies are no longer adapted to their previous level of drug exposure. An overdose happens when the person uses enough of a drug to produce uncomfortable feelings, life-threatening symptoms, or death.
Medications & Devices That Help Treat Substance Abuse
Different types of medications may be useful at different stages of treatment to help an individual stop abusing drugs, stay in treatment, and avoid relapse. 
- Treating Withdrawal. When patients first stop using drugs, they can experience various physical and emotional symptoms, including restlessness or sleeplessness, as well as depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Certain treatment medications and devices reduce these symptoms, which makes it easier to stop the drug use.
- Staying in Treatment. Some treatment medications and mobile applications are used to help the brain adapt gradually to the absence of the drug. These treatments act slowly to help prevent drug cravings and have a calming effect on body systems. They can help patients focus on counseling and other psychotherapies related to their drug treatment.
- Preventing Relapse. Science has taught us that stress cues linked to the drug use (such as people, places, things, and moods), and contact with drugs are the most common triggers for relapse. Scientists have been developing therapies to interfere with these triggers to help patients stay in recovery.
Behavioral Therapies For Alcohol & Drug Abuse
This time of year tends to be emotionally charged. Nostalgia, self-reflection, and seasonal depression make for a tough combination. If you’re dealing with a breakup or the loss of a family member, the holidays can heighten the feeling of absence making it all the more painful.
Behavioral therapies help people in drug addiction treatment modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use. As a result, clients are able to handle stressful situations and various triggers that might cause another relapse. Behavioral therapies can also enhance the effectiveness of medications and help people remain in treatment longer.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – A therapy that seeks to help patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they’re most likely to use drugs.
- Contingency Management – Uses positive reinforcement such as providing rewards or privileges for remaining drugfree, for attending and participating in counseling sessions, or for taking treatment medications as prescribed.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy – Uses strategies to make the most of people’s readiness to change their behavior and enter treatment.
- Family Therapy – It helps people (especially young people) with drug use problems, as well as their families, address influences on drug use patterns and improve overall family functioning.
- Twelve-Step Facilitation (TSF) – It is an individual therapy typically delivered in 12 weekly session to prepare people to become engaged in 12-step mutual support programs. 12-step programs, like Alcoholic Anonymous, are not medical treatments, but provide social and complementary support to those treatments. TSF follows the 12-step themes of acceptance, surrender, and active involvement in recovery.
Social Support & Addiction Recovery For The New Year
Social support has several benefits that may contribute to the recovery process over time. For example, social support has been found to buffer stress. Moreover, the support of, particularly recovering peers, provides hope, coping strategies, and role models, giving strength in trying times.
One of the strong social support systems that helps a lot in long-term recovery is 12 steps meetings and groups. Present findings, indicating that the majority of individuals in long-term recovery continue to attend meetings and sustain their involvement with the 12-step program of recovery, suggest that the beneficial effects of 12-step groups on short-term abstinence extend to the long-term as well. 
From a recovery perspective, 12-step groups have the unique advantage of being consistently and widely available in the communities where members live. The chronic, relapse-prone aspect of addictive disorders makes it necessary for many substance users to have access to lifelong support that formal treatment cannot provide. Further, 12-step groups often engage members more intensely and for longer periods than do professional treatment programs.
We Level Up Treatment Centers For Alcohol & Drug Addiction
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by all that the New Year can bring, don’t forget that you can always reach out to your addiction treatment center for relapse support. Having professionals that know you and that you can trust, can serve as an additional source of strength to avoid relapse during the holidays. Contact us today for more addiction recovery for the New Year advice and what to do in the instance that you do end up relapsing.
If you feel like you’re at your last resort, contact your rehab facility. We Level Up treatment centers has a strong alumni support program that can help you navigate the stress of staying sober during the holidays without relapsing. Whether the source of your holiday stress comes from navigating the presence of alcohol or drugs at gatherings or dealing with drama from family or romantic partners, your rehab center can help with managing holiday stress to keep you on the right path.
Holiday Stress Report FINAL.doc (apa.org) apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf