Remaining drug or alcohol-free can be a challenge at the best of times, but the holidays present a unique struggle. You might be invited to work gatherings or parties thrown by family or friends, all of which are likely to have alcohol present. Memories of holidays past can also be triggers. Holidays can be stressful even for people who aren’t in recovery, with familial and societal expectations and anxiety-inducing crowded shopping centers. They also tend to be times when people ignore common sense and indulge more than normal. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association found that between 2007 and 2011, 40 percent of all highway deaths were the result of drunk drivers over the Fourth of July weekend.
Remembering past holidays can be triggering for a variety of reasons. Maybe you have fond memories of annual New Years celebrations involving copious amounts of alcohol. If your friends were drug users, you might have participated in substance use at any opportunity for a party. Your memories may also be bad ones; for example, if your parents were neglectful and you never had a proper Christmas, or if a loved one died around that time of year, the entire holiday season could be tainted by the desire to lose yourself in drugs or alcohol. Holidays also tend to be times when family members who don’t see each other often will gather, increasing the chances of running into someone you’ve had a conflict with. The resulting stress and anger might cause you to consider returning to your substance of choice for comfort. Similarly, if people you were once close to are no longer in your life because of the effects of addiction, this can lead to feelings of loneliness or depression.
To stay on the right path, make sure to plan ahead. Consider any invitations you receive and the people giving them, and decline those you know might involve unsupportive people or other substance abusers. Stay away from places you know might trigger you, like a favorite bar from the past. Bring a friend or family with you to gatherings who will remain sober and assist you in doing the same. If that isn’t possible, have someone in mind who you can call if needed, whether a friend, therapist or sponsor.
Think about how to respond to someone encouraging you to drink. If it’s a work function or a gathering of people who you’d rather not know about your substance use, it’s perfectly okay to give other reasons for abstaining. You can always claim to be on medication that prevents you from drinking, or say that you have an early morning. Being a designated driver is also a good way to abstain without too many questions.
If you want to avoid parties altogether, start new traditions. Invite people you trust to your house for a sober gathering and play board games or watch movies. Consider volunteering somewhere, like in a soup kitchen, toy drive, or another charitable endeavor.
If you or a loved one need help to quit drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.