There is no question that the holiday season can cause significant setbacks for individuals working to sustain lasting recovery from addiction. While the potential for relapse remains high year-round, the holiday season can be especially problematic. It is essential to understand that it is possible to avoid relapsing behaviors. However, if relapse occurs, it is even more vital to recognize that lasting recovery is still possible. Learning how to bounce back from post-holiday setbacks is necessary for lasting sobriety.
Potential Post-Holiday Setbacks
The holidays can be a time of glittering lights, presents, merriment, and revelry for people around the world. During the period of November to early January, we find ourselves celebrating several major holidays in short succession.
Now that January is here, it is time to take stock of ourselves and grade how we did during the holiday season. Whether we are checking how much we tip the scales after eating so much good food or checking in with mentors at our addiction recovery programs, now is the time to be honest with ourselves and stand in the truth.
The holidays are a time when we may not be able to have as much control over whether we are around alcoholic beverages and substances that tempt us. In fact, some of these things are readily available at holiday parties. Numerous scientific research studies have demonstrated positive correlations between alcohol consumption and substance use during the holidays. These are scary statistics, especially for those of us who are in recovery.
But let’s take stock for a second and remind ourselves what recovery is, and what it is not. Recovery from addiction is not a cure. We work every day to be our best person, and there are going to be days we fall a little short. None of us are perfect. When we relapse, we are stumbling a little in our recovery. Relapse is not an end to recovery. What is most important is that we pick ourselves up off of the ground, brush ourselves off, and call our support team as we try to get back on track.
When Relapse Seems Unavoidable
Sometimes relapse seems like it will happen no matter what. The holidays can feel lonely for some of us, and for those people, it can seem as though there is no hope. Those feelings can lead to a downward spiral and lead to relapse.
When you feel yourself falling, it is important to brace yourself for the fall. Managing the landing can make your chances of staying true to recovery much better. During these times, you can rely on the coping mechanisms you learned to bolster yourself.
It is important to remember that you are fallible and that no one is perfect. Relapsing does not make you a bad person. You are human. Everyone in your support team cares about you and wants you to succeed in your recovery. The most important thing is that you remain in your recovery program and that you work to get back into it as quickly as possible following relapse. This is about your well-being: physical, mental, and spiritual.
5 Ways to Prevent Relapse
The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine coins five rules that you can follow that help avoid relapse:
#1. Change Your Life
Recovery is not just about remission. It is a process you undertake to completely and radically change the way you are living. Living sober means keeping yourself away from the triggers of your addiction, and that can involve completely rebuilding your life.
#2. Practice Honesty
Of all the truths about addiction, one that is abundantly clear is that it requires lying to yourself, to others, and the world around you. Honesty means you are not trying to hide your relapse.
#3. Ask for Help When You Need It
Your care teams are there to help you whenever you need it. You can also rely on your groups and peer support systems in addition to your professional care team.
#4. Prioritize Self-Care
Remember that self-care is important. Addictions are often about escape. Everyone, substance users or not, needs to have that way to relax and reward themselves. Recovery is recognizing that there are healthier ways to do this, and that addiction is an unhealthy and maladaptive reward system.
#5. Don’t Bend the Rules
Be completely honest, completely change your life, ask for help without conditions, and always practice self-care. These are all important and necessary rules. Not following one can mean you may stumble and fall.
5 Thoughts to Avoid
While these five rules of recovery are great to remember, there are some thoughts you should actively avoid in recovery. These thoughts may lead to maladaptive behaviors and could lead you to relapse:
- I don’t want to admit I am struggling. Recovery is a lifelong journey. Admitting your struggles is courageous and the first step in achieving lasting healing.
- I don’t want help or want to do this on my own. We all need help sometimes, and we can’t usually fix ourselves. When we get sick, we see a doctor. Professionals can help us with these problems.
- I do not want to be part of a group. Some people are not joiners. But in recovery, a group setting can help you cope better knowing there are people there who understand you.
- What if someone knows me there? Great! You will not be alone then. In fact, if someone recognizes you, understand they are also there for help. Now you can get help together.
- I am not religious. 12-Step programs do not require you to be. A higher power can be the Christian God, another deity, or oneself. But research shows spirituality is helpful for recovery.
No matter who we are and no matter how much it seems some people have their life together, we all trip and fall down sometimes. Life is not about how much we trip, stumble, or fall down. It is about picking ourselves off the ground, dusting ourselves off, and finding the hope and happiness to keep going even when it seems hard. Getting through the holidays and the winter months can be a challenge. In the new year, it is time to take stock of how we are doing. If you have fallen into relapse, now is the time to make that change again. If you need help getting on track, call Renaissance Ranch at (801) 308-8898.