The holiday season arrives with a promise of joy and celebration, yet it throws contrasting shadows for those dealing with substance-related issues. For many, this time of year magnifies challenges and struggles, transforming what should be a season of warmth into a period of heightened anxiety and vulnerability.
Amidst the cheer and gatherings, the reality of substance misuse often becomes more pronounced; however, with the proper support system and a commitment to self-care, it’s entirely possible to manage the holiday season successfully, maintain sobriety, or even embark on a journey of recovery during this festive time. If you plan well, you can have the Christmas you genuinely want.
Understanding Substance Misuse in the Holiday Period
The festive season can provoke a mix of emotions for those battling substance use. This period can be especially challenging due to heightened social pressures, reminders of personal struggles, financial insecurity, toxic family dynamics, and the ubiquitous presence of alcohol and sometimes substances at social gatherings. These elements can all act as triggers, leading to an increased risk of relapse.
These statistics help us to paint a clear picture of the unique difficulties related to substances and alcohol that the holiday season brings:
- Drug Overdose Deaths: The CDC’s Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts highlight a national increase in drug-related deaths, indicating the severity of substance misuse issues. In December 2021 and January 2022, over 100,000 Americans died from overdose each month – the highest numbers in the entire year.
- Alcohol Poisoning and Sales: Research from Finland shows a direct correlation between alcohol sales and fatal alcohol poisonings, particularly during holidays like Christmas, when sales are at a year-round high.
- Deliberate Self-Harm Around Christmas and New Year: In the UK, a study found variations in non-fatal deliberate self-harm (DSH) during the festive season, with a significant increase in incidents involving alcohol on New Year’s Day.
Social Support During the Holiday Season
Navigating the holiday season while managing substance misuse challenges calls for a combination of careful planning and active coping strategies. Events during the holidays are usually social, and we might worry we’re missing out if we don’t attend certain gatherings. In these instances, we need to be mindful of environments and situations that might increase the temptation to misuse substances and avoid places where alcohol or other substances are the main focus.
Choosing to attend events where you feel safe and supported is especially important. If it helps, consider taking a sober companion who understands your journey and can provide support. Additionally, declining invitations or leaving early is not negotiable if needed – it’s essential for maintaining your well-being. Openly communicate with family and friends about your recovery needs – it’s essential to articulate your boundaries around what’s acceptable and the levels of support you need. Alcohol and drugs are described in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous as ‘cunning, baffling, and powerful’, so we need to remain vigilant at all times.
The role of a strong support network during the holiday season also cannot be overstated. Make a concrete plan to attend additional support group meetings, such as AA/NA/SMART, particularly on days when you feel more vulnerable. Regularly connecting with your support network, including sponsors or trusted friends, can provide the strength and encouragement needed to overcome difficult times.
Often, local 12-step groups will have gatherings or events around this time of year, and attending can be a great way to meet local people on the same path as you without the temptations other parties can bring.
Focusing on helping others is also another great way to shift your perspective during the holidays. Working your 12th step doesn’t have to be limited to talking at meetings and sponsoring – volunteering within the recovery community or other charities can provide you with a sense of purpose and fulfillment and is also in keeping with the festive spirit of giving back!
You can find a list of places you can find both online and in-person support below:
- Alcoholics Anonymous USA Hotline (209) 339-1201
- Alcoholics Anonymous Global Meeting Finder
- Women For Sobriety Community
- SMART Recovery Meeting Finder
- She Recovers Online Community
Self-Care During the Holiday Season
While the holiday season often focuses on social gatherings and communal festivities, recognizing the value of solitary practices you can do to maintain your recovery is equally relevant. Engaging in solo self-care activities can be a powerful counterbalance to the external pressures of the season. These personal practices offer a chance to reflect, rejuvenate, and work on what’s important to your sobriety. You could consider:
- Maintaining Physical Activity: Regular exercise improves physical health and supports sobriety by reducing stress and boosting mood. Activities like walking, yoga, or gym workouts can be especially beneficial in managing cravings and maintaining mental clarity during recovery.
- Engaging in Spiritual Practices: Spiritual or mindfulness practices offer a sense of calm and perspective, which is essential for those in 12-step-based recovery. Meditation, prayer, or participating in religious services can provide a grounding effect, helping to move through the challenges of sobriety during the hectic holiday season.
- Prioritizing Relaxation: Amidst holiday chaos, relaxation techniques can be a fantastic free and portable way to help you remain calm during stressful situations. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or engaging in a calming hobby can help manage the anxieties and pressures that might otherwise lead to thoughts of using substances.
- Eating Healthily: Balanced nutrition is key in supporting overall well-being and sobriety. Healthy food choices can help stabilize mood and energy levels, countering the temptation to turn to substances for comfort or escape.
Reach Out for Help Today
Crossroads Centre Antigua stands ready to welcome anyone seeking support during the holiday season. We understand that this time of year can bring unique challenges for those dealing with substance misuse, and we are here to provide a calming and sober environment. Our doors are open all year around, offering a place of safety and positivity for those looking to begin or continue their recovery journey.
Our approach combines clinical expertise with holistic therapies, tailored to build a resilient foundation for lasting sobriety. Whether you need a conversation to guide you through a tough moment or comprehensive treatment, our team is here to listen and help.
Don’t let the festive season overshadow your path to recovery – embrace this time as an opportunity for growth and healing. Reach out to Crossroads Centre Antigua, and together, let’s make this holiday season a transformative experience towards a brighter and healthier future. For more information on how we can support you or a loved one, please contact us at 1 (888) 452-0091.