What do you get when you combine a global pandemic with the holiday season? A pretty triggering situation, that’s what. For individuals in addiction recovery, dealing with the stress of the holidays can be triggering in and of itself. The pressure to cook the perfect meal and purchase the perfect presents, the full-force family dysfunction and the stress involved in traveling outside of your personal comfort zone for an extended period of time can drive any recovering alcoholic to drink. Combine these standard holiday stressors with the widespread implications of COVID-19 and you could have a recipe for relapse-related disaster. For this reason, it is exceptionally important that individuals who are in recovery are taking all of the necessary precautions this year and doing everything they can to keep their recovery intact. The year 2020 has already been one for the books. From forced quarantine to job insecurity, everyone has been dealing with a wide range of unexpected and overwhelming circumstances. Those in addiction recovery had to adapt to virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and therapy sessions, as well as a variety of other new, COVID regulation-fueled regulations. Things have not been easy; and guess what? They’re about to get a little bit harder!

Fortunately, with the right coping mechanisms in place you will be able to successfully make it through even the most stress-inducing situations with your sobriety intact.

5 Tips for Staying Sober This Holiday Season

Chapel Hill Detox has compiled a list of 5 ways to stay sober this holiday season, coupled with 5 potentially triggering situations. Because relapse triggers vary immensely on a person-to-person basis, it is important that you are fully aware of your unique triggers before diving headfirst into any stressful situations. Most reputable medical detox, inpatient treatment and aftercare programs focus immensely on relapse prevention, seeing as if you do not have your sobriety intact you really don’t have much of a recovery program to work with. Chapel Hill Detox focuses on relapse prevention techniques, offering our clients recovery-related group sessions on a daily basis which they can participate in if they are feeling up to it. We believe that – because relapse prevention is so crucial to the remainder of the treatment process – it should be taught as early as the first stage in every multi-phased continuum of clinical care.

Below are 5 effective strategies for staying sober in the midst of the upcoming pandemic-shaped holiday season.

  1. If your family is insanely dysfunctional and you feel extremely triggered every Thanksgiving because of it, just stay home. To be quite honest and unfiltered, the beauty of this unique holiday season is that saying, “I’m social distancing,” or, “I’m quarantining,” is a completely valid excuse to not show up. Maybe you typically spend Thanksgiving at your parents house with your entire extended family – your alcoholic uncle, your nitpicky nana, your anger issue-ridden brother-in-law. Rather than put yourself in a situation that is uncomfortable and difficult to manage every single year, simply tell your family that you are taking every necessary precaution and you don’t feel comfortable being around that many people. Of course, many families are reducing the size of their Thanksgiving feast this year in order to protect the extended family – hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Remember that there is no harm in taking a short break this year. Maybe you can make an appearance during Christmas.
  2. Meeting makers make it. The cool thing about a shift from in-person to virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is the fact that you have access to your homegroup from absolutely anywhere. This year, you will not have to look up a list of AA or NA meetings in your area (wherever you end up traveling to). You will have access to any meeting you’re used to attending so long as you have a laptop handy. If you are traveling out of town for the holidays, be sure to let your homegroup members know where you will be and ask them to keep you accountable. It isn’t a bad idea to hand out your number before you take off for the holidays either; this way, people will be able to easily get in touch should you not show up to a meeting one day.
  3. Make sure your loved ones know about and respect your recovery. If you have a family full of beer-guzzling borderline alcoholics (of course, you can’t judge the habits of others, but you know what we mean), they might not be as receptive to your sobriety. If your family members constantly say things like, “I don’t understand why you can’t have just a couple,” or, “Oh, come on, you can drink on the holidays, just stop again when you get home,” it might be better to avoid the situation altogether. If your family members are understanding and supportive of your recovery, let them know that this year has been especially difficult because you have had to make major changes to your recovery program. If you feel comfortable doing so, you might even ask if they can exclude alcohol from the festivities entirely this year.
  4. Pick and choose which events you attend. The good news is, you won’t have to skirt around attending your office Christmas party this year. There is a good chance that most Christmas parties will be nipped in the bud – cancelled before they are even planned. Remember that if you say something like, “I appreciate the invite, but I’m still practicing social distancing,” no one will ask questions. You have the option to easily “get out of” any event you feel might be triggering, uncomfortable or unsafe.
  5. Be sure you have a list of effective coping mechanisms in place should you start to feel triggered. These coping mechanisms vary on a person-to-person basis, but could include things like taking a short jog, taking a long walk outside, calling a sober friend and hashing out the issue, reading a certain excerpt from the Big Book, practicing mindfulness meditation in order to get grounded in the present moment, playing the tape through, getting involved in a Zoom AA meeting as quickly as possible…. The list goes on and one. It is imperative that you know what works for you before you get together with family or attend an event that you know could be stressful. Regardless of who you are and how long you have been active in recovery, this year has not been easy. A lot of people are on edge and starved of social interaction. Your looniest family members are likely even loonier. No matter what, be sure that you are adequately prepared. (Note that adequate preparation always includes a viable escape route.)

Chapel Hill Detox – The First Step on the Road to Recovery

If you have not yet gotten sober or if you have experienced a slip and have found it difficult to quit again on your own, Chapel Hill Detox is available to help. Our comprehensive, medically monitored detox program is a necessary first step on every individual journey of addiction recovery. We understand how difficult this year has been for everyone. Life has thrown a wide range of new hurdles in our direction – most people have experienced everything from social isolation and extreme loneliness to job insecurity and financial hardship. Rates of substance abuse and dependence have been on the sharp incline since March. Fortunately, there is help available. To learn more about our personalized and integrated program of recovery, please feel free to reach out at any point in time. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

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