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5 Ways to Keep Substance Abuse Out of Your Holiday Equation

There is perhaps no more difficult time of year for many families than the holidays. From that last Thursday in November that marks Thanksgiving for so many right up until New Year’s Day, it seems the holidays are a nightmare for everyone, and no one feels this more acutely than those who suffer from substance abuse problems. After all, what better defines the holidays than sweeping it all under the rug for a good meal and a stiff drink? Add tense emotions to that equation, and you have a recipe for relapse. Here are some tips that can help.

  1. Make sure you start with a plan. Remember that family events often serve to escalate those issues that originally led an abuser to use. It can mean feeling completely alone at times, so creating a plan is essential. Anyone in recovery has to know and accept that the holidays are stressful. Watching for those potential triggers, and learning how to deal with them, is important. When the tension gets to be too much, an exit strategy is equally important.
  2. Remember how important recovery is. The holidays are about celebration. Losing focus on the idea of recovery is fairly simple this time of year, so make sure that a recovering addict doesn’t feel alone. Instead, bringing a supportive team into any situation is going to be more helpful than harmful. A 12-step meeting before and after family gatherings can help.
  3. Don’t forget about treatment. Even though it’s the holidays, attending meetings, booking therapy appointments, and adding to that support system should remain at the forefront of absolutely everything.
  4. Happy, healthy activities can help. This is a great time of year to volunteer, focus on the positive, and keep the mind away from using. Exercise, eating right, sleeping enough, and keeping up with treatment is important, too. You may want to set a self-care plan for this time of year.
  5. Keep triggers out of the equation. If a situation is going to make an addict want to use, it should be avoided, even if it means leaving certain gatherings (or people) out of the festivities.

Life without alcohol and drugs is never easy for a recovering addict, and the holidays certainly don’t make it easier. Finding the right balance and setting some ground rules now, though, can help.

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