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Sober for the Holidays: Challenges to Addiction Recovery

The holidays are often seen as a time of joy, connection with family, and gratitude. While this is true for many people, the holidays can also be incredibly difficult. This is especially true for people in recovery from addiction. In this post, I talk about just a few of the challenges people may face when trying to stay sober for the holidays.

Social events

There are numerous challenges for people who are trying to stay sober during the holidays. The most obvious is that people often serve alcohol at holiday functions. Wine at Thanksgiving, cocktails at holiday parties, champagne on New Year’s Eve: there is no shortage of booze. Not to mention, people often push alcohol on others at these events. People who aren’t in recovery or haven’t taken the time to educate themselves often don’t understand why people can’t have just one drink. Depending on your social circle, holiday events may also include drug use.

Difficult family dynamics

Another challenge is difficult family dynamics. We all like to imagine the holidays as a time of coming together with family. For those with families that are toxic, abusive, or addicted, the holidays are often filled with stress. Maybe the holidays involve staying in a home with a person who abused you. Maybe your siblings or cousins are people who you used drugs with. Maybe your family is toxic and doesn’t approve of you, your choice of romantic partner, your job, or infinite other things. The negative emotions stirred up by these dynamics can often trigger people to drink or use drugs.

Triggering people, places, and things

Some people in recovery make the choice not to live in a place where they grew up or started to use substances in order to avoid the triggers of familiar people and places. When the holidays roll around, people may travel home and find themselves confronted by these triggers. For instance, driving past the bar you used to frequent or your old drug dealers house may activate memories of active addiction. Similarly, you may find yourself in social situations with people who you used to party with. Some people even report finding old drug paraphernalia where they had stashed it in their childhood bedrooms. Make a plan in advance to tackle these types of triggers.

Disruption to recovery routines

The stress and disruption caused by the holidays can be enough to throw people out of their recovery routine. There is so much pressure at the holidays to buy gifts, decorate, and prepare traditional meals. Affording everything is hard enough for many folks. Then, there is the added pressure for things to be “perfect.” All of this pressure often leads to people neglecting self-care and skipping doing the things that help them stay sober. Going to therapy, making it to meetings, meditating, getting enough sleep, etc. often fall by the wayside during the bustle of the holidays.

These are just a few of the many challenges sober folks may face. Take some time now to identify your biggest challenges during the holidays. Knowing your personal challenges and creating a game plan will increase your chances of staying sober this year. For tips on staying sober during this holiday season check out my other blog posts.

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