According to SAMHSA, as of 2017, nearly 20 million adults within the country struggled with some type of substance use disorder. Though people deal with addiction for a variety of reasons, many who are in the thick of their dilemma or on the road to sobriety struggle with triggers.
Unfortunately, one of the most common triggers is stress. Many people use different substances as coping mechanisms. With the COVID-19 pandemic changing everyone’s lives this year, there has been a surge of addictive behaviors. The National Institute of Health has said that “COVID-19 and addiction are the two pandemics which are on the verge of causing [a] major public health threat.”
Unfortunately, the triggers don’t stop there. With the holidays coming up, people will be facing additional stress. The holidays often come with pressures to get together with family and friends, spend money, travel, and more. They can also force you to face family members with whom you may have deeply-rooted issues or strained relationships. For someone struggling with addiction, the holidays can already be overwhelming. Throw in the stress of a global pandemic, and there is no doubt that staying on the path of recovery this season will be difficult.
So, what can you do to manage that amplified stress? How can you prepare yourself for the season, avoid triggers, and work with your family members to stay on track?
How to Avoid Stressful Triggers
If you’re worried about typical holiday triggers making things harder for you, try to plan ahead. Stress and burnout can lead to dangerous situations, so finding ways to reduce your stress levels is important. Some of the things you can do to keep your stress in check include:
- Not committing to too many events
- Setting boundaries
- Making goals for yourself
- Creating checklists to stay on track
- Making your normal daily routine a priority
Keep in mind that some family members might also be triggers. People like to ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ around the holidays. But, if your uncle is a master cocktail maker and offers you a strong drink, you could be tempted to take it. Make sure you plan ahead for such instances and avoid being around any physical triggers as much as possible.
To that extent, it may also be a good idea to avoid social media. Yes, it can serve as a welcomed distraction. But, if you see photos of others celebrating with drinking or partying, you might start to feel the need to do the same.
You know and understand your triggers better than anyone. That’s why it’s crucial to have a strategy in place before you begin your holiday festivities. Doing so can save you a lot of stress and discomfort, and will help to keep you on track.
Keeping Your Resources Close
If you’ve been going through addiction recovery for a while, you probably have a handful of positive, helpful resources at your fingertips. Don’t be afraid to check into them during the holidays, especially if you feel yourself struggling.
Addiction clinics and therapists alike have taken unique measures to keep their patients safe throughout this pandemic, mostly by utilizing telehealth services. Thankfully, by scheduling a telehealth appointment, you can stay in the comfort of your own home (or your family home) and still get the help you need.
Letting Your Family In
It may not be easy to talk to your family about your struggles with addiction. But, if you’re going to be around them at the holidays and you’re going through recovery, they can end up being your biggest support group.
If you’ve been juggling everything on your own amid the pandemic, don’t be afraid to ask for help. COVID-19 has created a laundry list of stressors for people, including:
- Health issues
- Financial problems
- Children learning at home
- Social isolation
Having kids can make things even more stressful if they’re stuck at home doing remote learning. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by those stressors, it’s extremely important to talk to your family so you can relax and let someone else help with the heavy lifting for a while. You can also look up ways to keep kids busy indoors and outdoors when you need a bit of a break. When you’re able to do that, you can put more of your focus and energy on your recovery.
If you’ve fallen into some trouble because of your addiction, the holidays could be the perfect time to explain things to your family, anyway. Addiction can create a variety of problems in your life, and not just physical or mental issues. Many people who deal with substance abuse end up severing relationships, or having problems at work. Some even face financial struggles if they can’t keep a job or spend their money on substances. You might also be facing legal bills you can’t pay. Chances are, if you’re willing to open up to your family, they will be just as willing to help you out far beyond this “season of giving”.