The holidays can be difficult for many people, but those who are newly sober face even greater challenges. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also affected millions of people throughout the country, damaging mental health and causing isolation, financial strain and uncertainty.
The 2020 holiday season may be a perfect storm of negative emotions and triggering events for people in recovery. Because of this, it’s important to know what to do to avoid triggers, cope with emotions and prevent risks of relapse. The following will provide some tips for maintaining recovery over the holidays, whether you’re in active treatment or long-term recovery.
What Can You Do if You’re in Active Treatment or Recovery?
The holidays may bring different challenges, depending on where you are in your addiction recovery journey. Fortunately, these strategies can help you stay focused on recovery and avoid triggering situations.
Tips for People in Inpatient Programs
If you’re in inpatient treatment over the holidays, it’s easy to feel lonely, or like you’re missing out on festivities. First and foremost, it’s important to remember the reasons why you’re attending treatment in the first place. One of these reasons likely includes becoming healthier for your family, friends and loved ones. While it can be difficult to be in treatment during the holidays, know that the hard work you’re doing now can bring you to a better future.
To help yourself cope during the holidays, you can:
- Arrange visits with loved ones
- Participate in video chats or phone calls with those you care about
- Write holiday cards to family and friends
- Connect with other patients or peers in rehab by sharing traditions or memories
- Speak with your counselor or therapist about holiday-related feelings you’re having
Tips for People in Outpatient Programs
If you’re in outpatient care, you may still be on shaky ground when it comes to your sobriety. You are sober, but treatment is not over, and you may not have effective relapse prevention strategies in place yet. As such, it’s important to be extra careful, whether you’re staying at home or attending events.
You can help manage difficult situations by:
- Avoiding events where substances are present
- Having a way out of events in case you are met with overwhelming triggers
- Letting your support system know that you may need extra help over the holidays
- Having someone to talk to when cravings or triggers become overwhelming
- Keeping yourself occupied (try out some festive holiday activities!)
It will also help to speak with your therapist or counselor about what triggers you have and what you should do when things become overwhelming. Additionally, you may want to rearrange your treatment schedule if you are planning to attend holiday gatherings.
Tips for People Who Completed Rehab or Are in Recovery
Whether you’ve recently completed rehab treatment or have been in recovery for years, the holiday season can still present a variety of unique triggers. It’s important to stay committed to your recovery and give yourself opportunities to break away from overwhelming situations and peer pressure. Here are a few tips to help you:
- Have a plan for saying “no” to offers of drugs or alcohol, especially when people ask why you aren’t partaking or are pressuring you.
- When attending an event with substances, have a pre-planned way to get out if things become difficult.
- Be prepared to address questions about your sobriety (remember, you can share as much or as little as you’d like).
- Have someone you can talk to or call when things are difficult.
What Can You Do if You Have a Loved One in Treatment or Recovery?
If you’re the family member, friend or loved one of someone in treatment or recovery, there are ways you can help foster the holiday spirit:
- Stay in touch by hosting video chats, writing letters or placing phone calls
- Host events without drugs or alcohol
- Offer to be their support person during difficult times, whether at events or in general
- Visit them if they are feeling the holiday blues (or let them stay with you, if appropriate)
- Avoid using a person’s recovery as a talking point with others — let the person choose what they share
- Be prepared to address or remove triggers they may face while at events
Teletherapy and Online Support During the Holidays
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or ongoing recovery, The Recovery Village Columbus can help in many ways. We offer a teletherapy service that allows you to receive treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions from the comfort of your home. It can be a way to address mental health concerns like depression, loneliness and isolation while staying safe during the pandemic.
We also provide a full continuum of care at our state-of-the-art addiction treatment facility, which begins with a medical detox and ends with ongoing aftercare programming. Contact us today to learn more about how our multidisciplinary staff and evidence-based treatment approaches can help with your situation.
- Rodriguez-Cayro, Kyli. “Therapists Predict How The Holidays Will Affect Our Mental Health.” HuffPost, December 9, 2020. Accessed December 14, 2020.
- Walsh, Bryan. “The long-term pain of the mental health pandemic.” Axios, September 26, 2020. Accessed December 14, 2020.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.