Give Yourself the Gift of Recovery: Holiday Survival Guide For Those In Addiction Treatment

If, instead of feeling yuletide cheer approaching the holidays, you feel anxiety instead, that’s totally normal for someone in opiate addiction treatment or alcohol addiction treatment. The holidays can be a challenging time for those in recovery. There are complicated situations to navigate: Parties, interactions with family, disrupted schedules. But all that is surmountable when you have a plan. Here are some tips on how to deal with common triggering situations that pop up during the holidays. 

How to: Survive the Holiday Party While in Addiction Treatment

The holiday party is a great opportunity for you to show yourself how much you’ve grown in addiction treatment. 

Before even going to the party, rehearse how you’re going to interact with others while there. Figure out what you’re going to say, for example, when someone offers you a drink. Remember, a simple “no thank you” is a perfectly valid and easy response. Want another option? Let them know you’re a designated driver. 

Another way to avoid drinking is to bring your own beverage to the party so you don’t have to rely on what’s provided. This could be your favorite non-alcoholic drink, poured into one of the cups everyone else is using. Or you could be the hero of the day and bring a holiday mocktail to share with others who may want to stay sober. (Check out this list from Woman’s Day for mocktail ideas that look and taste like a good time.) In addition to a beverage of your choice, keeping candy on hand is a good idea, too. Every time you feel a craving, just eat your favorite sweet instead. 

You don’t have to come alone to the party. Bring a lifeline with you — a sober friend or family member who can keep you accountable, help you navigate social situations, and who can provide an easy out if you need to leave. (Driving up with them or driving yourself to the party is another strategy to ensure a quick exit plan.) 

How to: Interact with Family and Acquaintances  

At family functions and holiday parties, you may end up interacting with people who knew you before you entered addiction treatment or who can trigger complicated emotions. Sometimes trauma can be connected to certain family members (read our latest blog on the link between trauma and addiction here). Just know that you are always in control of your situation. If you are having a stressful conversation, you are always free to walk away or to take a deep breath before responding. You can also try changing the subject. 

On the flip side, this might be your opportunity to take responsibility for something you’ve done in the past. If someone believes you hurt them before you were in recovery, take the opportunity to say sorry and to let them know you are now in addiction treatment.  

Just know that you do not have to attend any function that you feel may negatively impact your recovery. Your health comes before all else. 

How to: Deal With Complicated Emotions 

Although you should not attend any holiday events that could set you back, you should take care not to isolate yourself during this time. Loneliness can be a trigger as powerful as any person. Instead, this is the time to take advantage of the connections you have forged since entering into addiction treatment. Go to a holiday event with your sober circle, hit up your sponsor, attend extra meetings, sign up to volunteer — anything that will connect you to your wider community in a positive way.  

In addition to loneliness, the holidays can evoke feelings of depression in everyone, regardless of whether they’re in recovery or not. The National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends enjoying the present instead of dwelling on the past and to make time for relaxation.  

How To: Keep Yourself Regulated 

The holidays can dramatically alter your schedule, interrupting your sleep as well as your diet. Try to keep some consistency during this time or turn to other coping mechanisms such as exercise, journaling, or a meditation app.  

How To: Get Help and Begin Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling during the holidays, don’t be afraid to reach out to us here at Cooperative Recovery. We offer opioid addiction treatment and alcohol addiction treatment in the Nashville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee areas. You can schedule a same-day appointment here.