Our Substance Abuse Recovery Experts Offer Tips on How to Avoid Conflict this Holiday Season.
The holidays are a bittersweet time for individuals and families going through addiction recovery. Christmas represents a time of gratitude, forgiveness, family, and reconnecting. For many addicts, returning home also stirs up anxiety from unmet expectations and grief over past trauma. This often causes emotional pressure and stress from spending time with people you feel uncomfortable around. The holidays create an unfortunate perfect storm for relapse. You and your family can be aware of and prepare for triggers that could lead to an emotional explosion. Here are 5 tips to minimize triggers as you traverse the holidays during your addiction recovery treatment.
Putting yourself in a potentially high-stress situation with no way out can cause anxiety, well before tensions even begin to rise. Having the ability to remove yourself from a stressful situation empowers you to decide when you’ve had enough. While especially relevant during the holidays, having your own way out is a good idea in any situation. If you do not have access to your own transportation, find someone in your close support circle beforehand who will come to your aid if necessary.
Step away from the crowd periodically and find somewhere quiet to really assess how you are doing. Analyze interactions that have occurred already, and examine how they are making you feel. Ponder and internalize the positive things that have happened as a direct result of your attendance. After spending this time, ask yourself if you feel comfortable enough to stay. Taking inventory of how you feel can help you step back, and refocus on enjoying the time spent together.
Make a plan ahead of time. Think about past experiences you’ve had with your family, and try to identify thoughts, words or actions that made you feel uncomfortable. Calmly explain why you felt threatened in the past, and work together to come up with simple solutions to prevent similar situations. You can, as a family, agree early on for every member to immediately walk away from any high-pressure conflict that may arise.
Addiction thrives in disorder and disorganization. Abstinence requires structure, habits, support, and routines that create a sense of safety and predictability. Free time, boredom and no responsibilities are disorienting to someone in recovery. Focusing on serving and giving to others can help distract you from becoming preoccupied with negative thoughts and acting out.
The abundance of candies, pies, caffeinated drinks and the unspoken expectation to indulge is a slippery slope for anyone’s personal self-care, addicts included. Consuming large amounts of sugar is a primary relapse trigger for any recovering addict, as it releases high amounts of dopamine and other drug-seeking chemicals. It also fosters impulsivity. Using food to cope with holiday stressors may offer temporary comfort, but it does not result in the connection (with self and others) that is intrinsic in successful recovery.
Utilizing these tips will create a more peaceful environment for time spent with your family. As you continue to progress in your recovery, the love that exists between you and your family will continue to grow. Past disappointments, unmet expectations and resentment will dissolve as you learn to forgive each other and to build a relationship with who you are now – not who you have been. With enough time, respect and mindfulness, spending holidays with your family can transform into something that is looked forward to and cherished each year.