Last updated: September 25, 2023
Unfortunately, the short answer is yes. It’s easy to discern that substance abuse and the holidays seemingly walk hand-in-hand. Revelry is in the air! Drinking—even casual drug use—is normal behavior at many social gatherings whether they be office parties or even the extended family dinner at Aunt Molly’s house. So, even those who don’t normally partake are tempted to “cut loose” a bit over the holidays. Case in point, 29% of men and women who participated in a survey said they drank more over the holidays.
However, not everyone looks forward to this time of year—for a recovering drug addict, the temptation can turn to torture long before the big day even arrives. Whatever holiday that might be.
Isolation not due to a “Bah, humbug!” attitude
Many recovering addicts dread the holidays. Triggers abound during the season because celebrating with drugs and alcohol has become very engrained in our society. And, let’s face it—a lot of people aren’t going to want to put aside their own idea of a good time to help their cousin Joe from their stepmom’s side of the family cope with sobriety. It’s all about learning to cope with life! That sentiment sounds selfish to some but on the other hand, they have a point. Right?
Still, from the recovering addict’s point of view, the “just this once… it’s the holidays!” thought is hard to shake. Even seeing people that they used to celebrate with in the past can trigger that thought in their brain. It can be relentless. Once given into, it could set off a relapse that puts them back at square one.
That’s a tough place to be and some people refuse to let themselves go there. We commend them!
Whether or not family and friends decide to ban drugs and alcohol from the holiday party to support their friend or loved one, it’s understandable that lots of recovering addicts still choose to shy away from the festivities and stay at home.
Are they prone to a Blue Christmas though?
Choosing to skip the mass celebrations and spend a quiet holiday season at home is all well and good—unless the former addict’s addiction was heightened during the holidays. There are many reasons that people become depressed during the holiday season and that can trigger a relapse.
The reasons include:
- Overwhelming loss of a loved one—Either to death or the circumstances resulting from their addiction, struggling with the loss of a relationship can be especially hard around the holidays.
- Finances—The temptation to go into debt to provide a “perfect” Christmas for the kids or the realization that there just won’t be a lot under the tree this year can overwhelm some struggling with depression.
- Gift giving—Whether or not it pertains to finances, some people stress entirely too much over this aspect of the holidays. For instance, trying to come up with the perfect Secret Santa gift for the exchange at the office…
- Loneliness—Spending time alone can be detrimental to a recovering addict’s sobriety. That’s because the addiction itself probably caused the person to put themselves in self-isolation in an effort to hide it from friends and family.
- Guilt—This is a common emotion among people who are putting a drug addiction behind them. Past behaviors toward loved ones can haunt someone who is spending a lot of time on their own.
Make it a wonderful life
If you know someone who struggles with substance abuse, be the person that is willing to ban drugs and alcohol from the festivities.
If you are a recovering addict, there are things you can do to help you make it through the holiday season.
- Make a list of reasons to stay sober.
- Find someone to call, text, or talk to when you begin to feel cravings.
- Check out a local sobriety meeting—lifelong friendships are formed there.
- Begin a daily workout routine.
- Eat healthily and get enough rest.
- Spend time with your inner circle.
- Take part in social events that don’t involve drugs or alcohol.
Taking part in new experiences and meeting new people who are doing life sober can be a catalyst for discovering a whole new set of holiday traditions! Sober bars continue to grow in popularity. Find one near you and give it a go!
And, may we be the first to wish you a very merry holiday season!