Why Christmas is so tough for addicts and what coping strategies are there for getting through it?

Why Christmas is so tough for addicts and what coping strategies are there for getting through it?

December is here, decorations are up and thoughts are turning to the holidays. This should be a happy time and something to look forward to, but for addicts and their families it can be very stressful and full of temptation. However, here at The Bridge Marbella, we believe that knowledge is power and that by preparing your body, mind and environment, you can have a Happy Christmas and give yourself the best possible chance of a happy and healthy 2021.

Here are some coping strategies for dealing with the festive period, if you need any personalised support, or would prefer to be in a recovery residence over this difficult time, please contact us, our doors are always open, even during the holidays.

Understand why it is such a difficult time

Whether or not you are struggling with addiction, Christmas can be a stressful time. It brings together families when relationships may be strained and many people struggle as they can’t afford to celebrate the way they would like. However, for addicts, it can be particularly challenging, as it can amplify feelings of isolation and offers plenty of opportunities to drink or use again in the form of parties and gatherings where other people will be drinking or taking drugs. It’s important to acknowledge the challenges you will face, identify your unique triggers and plan to avoid relapse.

Manage your expectations and talk to friends and family members before the holidays

Communication is key and it’s best if you can have difficult conversations ahead of family get togethers to reduce the stress and the pressure. Be honest with how you are feeling and what you feel you can manage and how you may behave on the day. Can you cope if others are drinking, or will this be a trigger, how much time will you be able to manage on the day, what strategies can you use if it’s all getting too much and what activities would be beneficial for you all. Having these conversations and setting ground rules and expectations for behaviour among the people you will be celebrating with will reduce anxiety and prepare you all for what’s ahead.

Time your visit right

If you are visiting for a celebration, it is a good idea to arrive early and leave early and inform the host of your plans. You can be sociable but not expose yourself to too much temptation or pressure. If you are staying away, decide how long is right for you and make sure you have an escape plan in mind if you feel tempted to relapse. Also, if you are going to someone else’s home, take your favourite beverages with you to ensure you have variety and things you enjoy on hand.

Take time for self-care

Try to keep up healthy habits even during the holidays. Don’t be afraid to leave celebrations early to make sure you get enough sleep, keep up an exercise routine and try to eat well. Take a walk if things are getting too much, or retreat for a bath or shower and take time to feel calm and grounded. If you are travelling to family or friends, check if there is an AA or NA meeting local to where you are staying, so you know you can find help and support if you need it. Explain to your loved ones what your coping strategies are and what you may do if you’re feeling overwhelmed, so that there are no surprises or guilt about being absent, they will understand if you’ve prepared them.

Surround yourself with like-minded people

If family relationships are strained, or friends use or drink, then reach out to your community from AA, NA or rehab and suggest a celebration. They all understand your struggle and are all learning to enjoy life without substance abuse and so celebrating together won’t be as hard. If this is not an option, then choose the right people to see, those with children who see the magic of Christmas without alcohol, or those people who accept you and are happy for you to be there however you can be.

Consider virtual celebrations

This year, many people will not be able to travel to see friends and family and so virtual celebrations will become the new normal. This offers excellent opportunities for recovering addicts to be able to connect and not feel isolated, while being able to feel safe and secure at home and not take themselves into a place where they could be tempted. Arrange these regularly throughout the holidays and schedule them at times when people won’t be drinking, or arrange fun activities such as quizzes and games that don’t require too much sharing or communicating. Zoom, Skype and Google Meet are all great and there are loads of online games and activities if you look for them online. Virtual celebrations could be just the thing you need to make the most of your Christmas without the temptation.

Choose recovery

If Christmas is a time that you have struggled with in the past and it causes more stress than you can handle, that’s OK. You don’t need to face your triggers and find coping strategies if you don’t feel like you will be able to cope with it. There are safe places, with caring, qualified professionals and they are even open on the holidays. Christmas can be the perfect time to choose to go to a residential recovery centre and receive the help and support you need, without any temptations or triggers to set you back. It can allow you to enter the new year clean and sober, ready to be your best self and equipped with the tools to stay on the right path.

Our family run recovery residence in Marbella will be open throughout Christmas to offer you the bespoke support and care you need to face your issues. We will show you how to reclaim Christmas free of drugs or alcohol and we’ll give you the best Christmas gift imaginable – the time, space and help you need free from drugs and alcohol. Find out more about The Bridge Marbella on our website, or contact us to discuss how we can support you over the Christmas period and beyond.