The holidays are a busy time of year. Post-pandemic, everyone is getting back to normal and living life again. It is time to celebrate with friends and family, but being safe about it should be in the back of everyone's mind.
This is not pandemic related; instead, being safe about alcohol consumption, not drinking and driving, helping those family members struggling with addiction, or intervening with drug or alcohol use has gone too far.
The Holidays are a time to come together, celebrate with family and friends, and look forward to the good things in life.
FIVE TIPS TO SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS
Below are a few simple ways to reduce the risks associated with substance misuse during the holiday season, whether this involves alcohol or other drugs:
Tip One—Manage Stress in a Healthy Way
The stress of the holidays is real and felt by most people. Post-pandemic, families across the nation are coming together to celebrate. It can be a stressful time.
Whether you are struggling with addiction or are in recovery, it is vital to manage stress healthily. Drugs and alcohol do not constitute healthy stress management.
Take advantage of downtime and time to yourself. Reach out to your sponsor if you need support. Consider going to rehab during the holidays; this is not a crazy idea and is the best time to go to treatment.
Additionally, focus on getting plenty of sleep, stay connected with supportive family members, and remember to do things for yourself.
Tip Two—Have an Exit Plan
Anyone in recovery from addiction should have an exit plan during the holiday season. This is especially important during early recovery from addiction.
Most holiday events will have alcohol. If you are concerned about relapsing, it is good to enter these parties or social gatherings with a plan. In contrast, it is ok to say no and not attend social gatherings. Perhaps you have other sober friends you want to be with and celebrate in a different way.
Some individuals choose to be a designated driver for the night to avoid the pressure of being offered drinks. However, most hosts today do not assume that everyone drinks and will offer a variety of non-alcoholic beverages.
Finally, if all else fails, set a time to leave and stay only for as long as you need to socialize, say hello, and make a discreet exit; no one is going to be offended.
Tip Three—Call a Friend
Most people in recovery have sober friends, a sponsor, or someone they can call when things get rough. Enlisting their help when attending social events could be a good idea. In contrast, if you are struggling with drug addiction, reach out to someone you trust and ask for help.
Just having someone to talk to makes a big difference. In addition, they can also be there to intervene if you feel you are going to slip up.
If you do not have sober friends or someone to speak to, reach out to a family member, counseling services, or a 12-step meeting. Twelve-step meeting groups are popular around the holiday season, and meetings are often available every day.
Tip Four—Early Intervention Saves Lives
Drug and alcohol addiction is a real problem during the holidays. Times are difficult across the nation post-pandemic amidst record inflation.
Addicts are still using drugs alone, and overdose rates are among the highest they have ever been. If you notice a family member addicted to drugs who need help, early intervention will save their life. This does not have to be a formal family intervention but a one-on-one heart-to-heart conversation.
However, there are circumstances where formal intervention is required. Hiring a professional interventionist works and is an excellent option for a family to consider.
Tip Five—Be Prepared for Change
Families change and grow along with family traditions. Be realistic about what to expect and accept everyone for who they are. The tallest hurdle is putting aside differences. The chances are that the person you are talking with is struggling with something themselves.
Post-pandemic, family dynamics are finally getting back together and moving past the wedge that was created. Some family members may have changed, while others may not have. Yet, more people are struggling with addiction and mental health issues.
Reach out to those in need and give back to the community. Personal growth and change are important, and the holiday season is a good start.
Thanksgiving Does Not Have to Be Drinksgiving
The day before Thanksgiving is the biggest alcohol sales day in the nation around the holidays. Data from over 2,900 local beer, wine, and liquor stores show sales leap to 130% higher than a typical day.
Thanksgiving creates a certain amount of stress for many people, especially addicts and recovering addicts. Family gatherings generate many emotions that are not always easy to manage. Holidays like Thanksgiving also invite excessive drinking and alcohol consumption.
Also known as Drinksgiving, Blackout Wednesday, or Black Wednesday, this holiday has become the first drinking weekend of the holiday season.
There is no doubt that Thanksgiving is a heavy drinking weekend; football, family, parties, and food.
Thanksgiving does not have to be a heavy drinking holiday. Significant risks include drinking and driving, personal injury, and family conflict.
If you feel you are going to drink more than usual, speak to a friend, drink non-alcoholic drinks, eat more turkey, and socialize with supportive family and friends.
December Holidays are Joyous, Yet They Can Create Turmoil
Anyone coping with alcohol or drug addiction can have a difficult time over the December holiday season. For example, many individuals experience high amounts of chronic or temporary stress during Christmas and Hanukkah.
The December holiday season can bring about old family arguments and create new ones. It is not uncommon to feel that holiday parties or social gatherings create heavy drinking, which is how many Americans feel:
- Approximately 56% of Americans experience more alcohol served at holiday gatherings than at other social events throughout the year.
- 58% of Americans agreed that their family drinks too much at these events.
- 63% say there is a family member that takes things too far.
- Whiskey, beer, wine, and tequila are the most common alcoholic drinks to take people over the edge during holiday parties.
Additionally, depression and anxiety during these celebrations significantly impact how people celebrate. The most common reasons for seasonal sadness were finances, strained family relationships, missing a family member who died, and being alone.
These issues can lead to excessive alcohol consumption and drug use. Young people primarily, for example, engage in risky drinking and alcohol consumption during the holiday season.
New Year's is About Celebrating the New, But It Often Begins with Alcohol
Regardless of how the new year is celebrated, the holiday typically involves excessive alcohol consumption and drug use. While the year tends to end with a string of bad habits, the good news is that New Year's resolutions usually revolve around breaking bad habits or creating good ones.
Unfortunately, some individuals are unsure or in denial about some bad habits. The end-of-the-year onslaught of parties and questionable decisions may not be a good touchstone for a person's behavior.
Sometimes, it may lead someone to ignore unhealthy habits and justify them as part of the celebration.
One effective method for establishing if you have an issue with drug and alcohol use is participating in "Dry" January. This involves individuals abstaining from alcohol (or drug use) for the entirety of the month.
Taking a month off from drinking alcohol is beneficial. The process could help you step back and examine your relationships with alcohol. In addition, you may learn you are dependent on this drug to manage and cope with stress and need to seek help.
Here are early warning signs and symptoms to watch for:
- Alcohol becomes an emotional crutch for people who suffer from stress while going about their daily routines.
- Binge drinking becomes an escape plan from this type of stress, and holiday traditions are an excuse to drink excessively.
- A family member may drink too much and then continue drinking even more.
- Drugs like marijuana are used to cope with stress and anxiety.
- A person may feel the need to use drugs or alcohol just to cope with the holidays.
- Some individuals are not comfortable with being at social events without alcohol.
- Some family members avoid social gatherings because their drinking habits are frowned upon.
If you or a family member begin to notice the early warning signs, it is important to intervene early. Have a conversation with them, ask if everything is ok, and if they need help or support. The holidays can be stressful, but there is help available.
A Time to Celebrate Family, Friends, and Life
The Holidays don't have to be a stressful time. They are intended as a time of celebration and gathering, and those with addiction struggles should be able to enjoy them without risking relapse.
The holiday season is a time to celebrate family, friends, and life. It is particularly important to support those in recovery and help those in need who are struggling with addiction and mental health issues.
Post-pandemic many things may of changed, yet most families have grown closer appreciating more that life has to offer. Take the time this holiday season to celebrate safely, show gratitude, and hug the ones you love.
Author bio: Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with substance abuse for over 20 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise he utilized his website, Addicted.org, and community outreach to spread awareness. His primary focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation.