The holidays can be an incredibly merry time full of gifts, great food, and even better people. But it can also be a time of stress, anxiety, and depression, especially for those who are struggling with a substance abuse disorder. In order to better prepare everyone involved, Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley of the “Project Recovery” podcast, have created a quick holiday guide that can help any families that may be experiencing what addiction looks like for the first time.
Have a plan
The first step in the holiday guide is to have a plan. Create a loose structure for the days between now and New Year’s. Having things to do that are active, social, and fun will help you avoid boredom and loneliness, two major risk factors for relapse during the holidays.
Develop an exit strategy
Start by knowing your personal warning signs that you’re struggling with. Then have an exit strategy for an event that has started to trigger you. This might include having a friend or family member on-call to pick you up.
Take a sober buddy
If you’re going to a family or work party, take a friend. Having a friend that will stick by your side can help you stay on track and focus on the things that truly matter.
Increase your service time
The next tip to the guide is an incredibly underrated aspect of the holidays — increasing service time. Being part of the sober community is all about giving back. Increase the amount of time you spend in providing service to others during the holidays.
Take the extra time to sleep well, exercise, and eat right during the holidays. Taking care of yourself in these ways will not only give you the positive energy to stay on track with your sobriety, but it also will be more likely that you’ll resist the temptation to use if you’re spending purposeful time taking care of yourself in other ways too (positive habit momentum).
Anticipate stress and avoid it
Stress increases the likelihood of relapse. So, don’t overspend and limit the amount of time you spend with stressful people. This may mean skipping an event or limiting the time you spend there. Your recovery must come first!
Set reasonable expectations
As the family of someone who is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, you need to ensure that all expectations are reasonable. The path to recovery is one that must remain at the forefront of an addict’s mind every minute of the day. So, when planning a holiday event make sure to properly understand what a great outcome will look like but is not too daunting for everyone involved.
Set clear boundaries
Family members should set clear boundaries with actively addicted family members. The boundaries should focus on what is reasonable conduct at the event, well before the event starts. This allows the family member who is using to make a commitment to reasonable behavior before the event starts. This is a much better alternative to banning family members from the event altogether.
Ask what they need
Another step in the holiday guide is to ask what they need. Prior to the family event, ask the loved one who is in recovery what can help them during the event. This can help you better understand what they need in order to feel supported during the event. It can also create a dialogue that will be conducive to everyone involved.
Don’t turn a holiday party into an intervention
It may be tempting since all of the family is together but resist the urge to turn a holiday party into an intervention. Successful interventions are well planned and typically benefit from the help of a professional.
For more information on substance abuse or if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you can find more information on Facebook and on KSL TV. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get major podcasts.
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