Prepping for the Holidays in Treatment or Recovery – 2023 Edition

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, help is available. Speak with a Recovery Advocate by calling (614) 362-1686 now.

Updated 11/10/2022

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.

5 Ways to Avoid Relapse During the Holiday Season

1. Do not make the holidays a huge deal.

Putting too much emphasis on the importance of the holidays will cause stress and may lead you to make poor decisions. The best course of action is to treat the holidays as just another day in recovery and continue to do the healthy things you have been doing to stay sober.

2. Plan for success.

Thinking about how you will handle the tempting situations you will encounter over the holidays will help you make a plan that will allow you to navigate them successfully. Plans could include having a ride or knowing public transportation schedules if you need to leave an event suddenly, practicing how you will turn down a drink, or deciding what to do if you begin to feel uncomfortable.

3. Decide how to tell others about your sobriety.

When people notice your sobriety, they will probably comment on it or ask questions, so it is important to decide what you will say ahead of time. If you are not comfortable talking about your sobriety, you can always make some excuse (“I’m trying to lose weight;” “I have to get up early for work”), but even if you feel comfortable talking about your recovery process, it helps to think about what you want to say ahead of time so you are not caught off guard.

4. Remember your reasons for sobriety.

In the middle of a party where it seems like everyone is having fun and that alcohol and drugs are part of that fun, your reasons for staying sober can sometimes seem to just fade away. Remembering where using substances got you in the past and why you are on a recovery journey now can be important in preventing relapse and keeping you sober during the holidays when temptation seems to be everywhere.

5. Be proud of your progress.

A feeling of pride about your sobriety is a beneficial attitude to have because it will motivate you to continue with your sobriety and not be as likely to relapse. You do not have to brag or share your feelings with others if you do not want to, but an inward sense of accomplishment is very good protection against relapse.

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 programmingContact us today to learn more about how our multidisciplinary staff and evidence-based treatment approaches can help with your situation.

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