Christmas is a time filled with joy, fun and celebrations. Families across the world come together to catch up, enjoy food and exchange gifts (although Christmas may look slightly different this year). Parties go on into the early hours of the morning, often involving alcohol, and it’s common for gifts of wine and beer to be exchanged between families or co-workers. Whilst this is something many people look forward to, for those recovering from an addiction, it’s a time full of temptations and triggers that threaten their recovery, and could potentially cause a relapse.
Know Your Triggers & Try To Avoid Them
It is important to know your triggers and plan ahead to ensure you have measures and coping mechanisms to put in place that will help you to avoid a relapse and continue your recovery successfully. Some of the most common triggers include:
1. Anxiety and Stress
Stress is one of the most common relapse triggers. Anyone can experience stress and, unfortunately, with the added pressure of shopping, preparations and finances at Christmas time, these feelings of stress can escalate into anxiety. If you know that stress or anxiety are your triggers, be sure to have a recovery plan in place to help you stick to a routine and stay connected with your support network.
Complacency means losing focus of what’s important. Over the festive season, all of our attention can be focused elsewhere and we start to compromise in other areas. Recovery is not an area where you can compromise. When you’re complacent, it leads to a state of mind where we are too comfortable and overconfident, often leading to relapse. Whilst it’s important to be confident in your recovery, make sure you’re staying focused on what you need to do to stay safe and recover.
3. Depression and Loneliness
Feelings of loneliness and depression are much more intense for people over Christmas time, especially for those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons.
For those in early recovery, relationships can be strained or you may still be making amends for past actions. It’s key to remember that addiction is a family illness and everyone is trying to recover. Although you may be desperate to make amends straight away, this pressure can lead to relapse, something which may set you back even further in your relationships.
That’s why you should focus on doing what you need to do to get better, including sticking to your recovery plan and connecting with your support group, especially if you begin to feel depressed or lonely over Christmas time.
At Christmas, people are at higher risk of exhaustion because they’re often very busy with festive preparations and moving from house to house. According to the British Psychological Society, exhaustion is dangerous because it demands relaxation and if your automatic go-to way of relaxing in the past has been to use substances, it can be easy for that to be the first thought to come to mind. To combat this, try to avoid overworking yourself. Healthier ways of relaxing include having a warm bath, listening to soothing music and meditation.
5. Excuses and Enabling
Over the Christmas holidays, many people overindulge in food, alcohol, or substances. Because lots of other people are doing it, we often make excuses for ourselves. “Oh I can have a treat, it is Christmas, afterall!” and “I’ll only have one drink, I’ll be fine” are common excuses that we make, however, even one drink could be detrimental to your recovery. If you are concerned about other people’s behaviours affecting you, have an honest conversation with them and describe how you’re worried about being around these substances.
Similarly, other people may be making excuses for your behaviour and perhaps even encouraging you to partake in drinking alcohol or taking drugs, using phrases such as “Come on, don’t be boring!” If you know you’re going to be somewhere where there is alcohol or drugs, make sure you know how you’re going to deal with these situations in advance.
Actions could include:
- Taking along a friend who will support your recovery and stop others from encouraging you.
- Have your sponsor’s phone number so you can call them if things get difficult.
- Don’t go. Make other plans that don’t involve alcohol or drugs.
6. Family Conflict
Every family has its difficulties, and Christmas time can often be a time of heightened tensions between families, which can be one of the worst triggers for those in addiction or early recovery. Being trapped in a space with people who bring you stress can be challenging and coupled with the likelihood that alcohol will be readily available over Christmas, it can be a real threat to recovery. If you find yourself struggling to cope with your emotions, make sure you reach out and get the help you need from either friends or from qualified professionals such as ourselves at Acquiesce.
The Christmas period can be very expensive and many people struggle when they begin to feel the pinch. If you’re in early recovery, you may find this time challenging if your addiction has affected your employment, income stream, if it has cost you a lot of money or if you’re in debt. This can bring up feelings of guilt, shame and stress which are common relapse triggers.
It can be tempting to try to make up for your mistakes by buying expensive gifts for people, however, people cannot be bought and this may land you in even more financial struggles. The best gift you can give your loved ones is a clean and sober you.
Whether you’re getting into a new relationship or ending a current one, romantic relationships can act as a big trigger for relapse. Feelings of love can either rapidly intensify or decrease over Christmas, so it is important for you to find the right balance of focusing on your loved one and yourself without compromising your recovery.
Self destructive feelings have a detrimental effect on your emotional and mental health. Christmas is a time of year where feelings of self pity can intensify for people. If you are active in your addiction, self-pity will want to keep you locked there and if you’re in recovery, self-pity can be a relapse trigger. Make sure you’re getting the help you need and speak to those close to you if you begin to have feelings of self-pity.
10. Guilt and Shame
When you’re surrounded by the people you have hurt and wronged during the holidays, you may feel guilty or ashamed of what your addiction has done to them. Guilt and shame are notorious for pushing recovering addicts back into bad habits. Instead of dwelling on the past, try focusing on moving forwards and battling these negative feelings. Make small amends with the people you’ve hurt or pick up the phone to speak with one of us at Acquiesce to find out exactly how we can help you with your recovery.
Reach Out for Support
If you find yourself struggling during the Christmas holidays, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Even if this means opening up to a friend or loved one about how you’re feeling, discussing it can take away some of the pressure you might feel, particularly if you’re alone at this time of year.
You can also reach out to one of our recovery practitioners. At Acquiesce, there is always someone you can talk to from our team over the Christmas period, so please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call on 01204 771940.