Navigating the holidays without using substances can be incredibly challenging. This season can be packed full of situations that can be triggering. ( Stress, lots of time spent with family, not having family to spend time with, money issues, for example). In addition, holidays often carry with them strong memories, both good and bad, as well as the emotions that come with those memories, which can also be very triggering. All things considered, it can feel like a three month long (at least) struggle to maintain any changes we have made with our substance use.
So how do we make it through this time of year successfully? Recognizing the situations that will come up that may be difficult before they happen, and planning for how we want to handle them is key. This may mean realizing we need to set some boundaries with others, say no to invitations, take the time to increase our self care, or a variety of other things. (Likely all of the above)!
Often a part of our struggles with these triggers when they come up, actually comes from not doing this, and then being caught off guard. When we leave the decision to “in the moment”, we are much more likely to find ourselves stumbling with our sobriety goals. This is because when we are in an emotionally charged situation, our brain is likely to revert to what is “habit” for us, which in this case, is likely drug and alcohol use. This is because the new coping skills we have developed that are helping us to not engage in these behaviors, are newer, and we have less experience putting them into practice compared to our old behaviors.
So as we head into this holiday season, take some time to really think about any challenges that you can foresee during this upcoming holiday season and what might be helpful for you in managing them, before you are already in the middle of the situation.