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Holiday Spirits: Alcohol, Recovery, and the Holidays

The holiday season is fast approaching, a time of year for festivities and celebrations. Along with the holidays comes a significant rise in alcohol consumption. In previous years, alcohol has played a big part in most gatherings, from work functions to family parties. Even though gatherings will be fewer and farther between this year, the number of people drinking likely won’t.

Alcohol keeps holiday spirits high for many, but staying free from substance abuse during the holidays is a serious challenge for others. The holiday season is not always an easy time for people in recovery since alcohol plays such a major role. Even people who don’t normally consume alcohol are more likely to drink past their limits during this time of year.

Holidays are stressful enough during normal years. The chaos and pressure of this year will likely make this season more difficult than seasons past. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s and every holiday in between, it’s crucial to prepare yourself ahead of time if you want to stay sober.

Head into the holiday season with a plan this year. Increased isolation along with the usual holiday stressors can tempt you to turn back to alcohol and other substances. Take some of the following steps to control your triggers and protect your recovery this holiday season!

Substance Abuse and the Holidays

Drinking during the holidays is commonplace and often expected. Some of the top drinking days of the year are coming up in the next few months. Research shows that rates of both casual alcohol use and binge drinking skyrocket during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

There are glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner, cocktails at holiday parties, flutes of champagne on New Year’s. It doesn’t matter whether you’re with family members or friends or coworkers; everyone seems to have a drink in their hand.

Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS) released a report about the drinking behaviors of more than 450,000 DUI offenders in their systems. Drinking violations rose 33% among individuals wearing an AMS alcohol monitoring device.

The folks in the report had been tested for the presence of alcohol every 30 minutes–they drank despite knowing that it would be detected. It is not hard to imagine that the rates among people who aren’t under observation would be much higher. Substance abuse during the holidays is a serious problem for many people.

Unfortunately, increased alcohol consumption during the holidays has led to deadly results in the past. The National Safety Council (NSC) revealed that people in the United States are more likely to drink and drive on holidays like New Year’s. 42% of traffic fatalities during the New Year’s period from 2007 to 2011 resulted from driving under the influence.

Alcohol abuse affects everyone whether they’re consuming the drinks or not. It’s no surprise that people in recovery feel nervous during this time. With such alarming numbers, even people who do not struggle with alcohol abuse could benefit from being on guard.

Prepare Yourself for Possible Triggers

Triggers abound during the holiday season. Dealing with difficult family members. Making it through a particularly boozy event. Fending off seasonal loneliness. There are many reasons that taking a drink may sound like a good idea in your mind. The more prepared you are to handle any potential triggers, though, the better. You might deal with some of the following things that come up and challenge your sobriety.

Difficult or Strained Family Relations

Holidays tend to be a time that you gather with both your immediate and extended family. Many people travel during the season to connect with their relatives. This time of year also amplifies any difficult or strained family relations you might have. You might not be able to see your immediate family. Maybe you don’t get along well with a grandparent or cousin.

Whatever your specific situation, strained family relationships can make the holidays a hard time. Feeling apart from your family might make a drink sound like a good idea. Counter this trigger by connecting with friends or family members you do get along with. There are plenty of people you can reach out to for support during the holidays.

Alcohol-Fueled Gatherings

Even though gatherings are limited this year to avoid the spread of COVID-19, your household will likely do something to acknowledge the holiday. Unless you live in a sober living, though, even household gatherings are likely to be alcohol-fueled.

Some people in recovery feel fine around alcohol, but plenty of others prefer not to be around it. Navigating a gathering where people are drinking heavily will feel challenging for many. If you’re in a household where you know alcohol will be a part of the celebration, prepare yourself ahead of time.

Isolation and Loneliness

Loneliness is a huge trigger for most people in recovery. Even for those who prefer alone time to large groups of people, too much alone time isn’t a good thing either. Loneliness is at an all-time high with the increase in isolation this year. Recognize the high potential for feeling lonely as you head into the holiday season and stay as connected with friends and family as possible.

Mental Illness

Mental illness is another year-round trigger that the holidays often amplify. Some people experience seasonal mental health troubles such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you have an existing mental illness or know you’re prone to seasonal depression, alert those closest to you. Managing your mental illness during the holidays is crucial to keep your symptoms from getting out of hand.

Protecting Your Recovery During the Holidays

Staying sober during the holidays doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. There are steps you can take to keep your recovery in check throughout the season. If you don’t have some ideas in mind to get through these next few months, the following tips will help you find ways to enjoy the holiday season sober.

Host a Small Holiday Gathering

Since large groups are out of the question, you can host a small, safe holiday gathering with some family or friends. Host it outdoors to limit any risk and ask that people leave their alcoholic beverages at home. You could even hold a gathering of friends in recovery to ensure everyone’s on the same sober page!

Have Your Favorite Drinks On-Hand

If you have to attend an event where alcohol will be flowing freely, bring your own drinks with you. Having a drink in your hand will keep people from asking you what you’d like to drink. It also limits your temptation to seek something out when you already brought something you enjoy with you.

Connect with Others in Recovery

Whether you meet with anyone in person or not, make sure to connect with others in recovery. Don’t try to get through the holiday season on your own. Loneliness can creep in faster than you realize, and your mind may play tricks on you. It’s better to stay connected before your mind even has the opportunity to wander. You and your friends in recovery can hold one another accountable throughout the entire holiday season.

Staying Sober This Holiday Season

Remember – you don’t have to handle the holidays alone. You can always ask for additional help if you need it. Seeking alcohol or drug addiction treatment during the holidays is the best gift you can offer yourself and your family.

Clearview Treatment Programs provides specialized solutions to those battling addiction and mental illness. From residential treatment to outpatient programs, we offer internationally recognized treatment to anyone who needs help. If you’re looking for additional help this holiday season, reach out to us today.

Our admissions counselors can answer any questions you might have and connect you with a program that’s perfect for you. Whether it’s your first time reaching out or you’ve attended treatment before, Clearview Treatment Programs is here for you every step of the way.