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Coping with addiction and recovery during the holidays

As the holidays approach, many people in recovery—or those coping with addiction—are faced with the challenge of attending events where alcohol is served or where people are using a mood-altering substance.  

The sight and smell of alcohol, or drugs, may be a powerful trigger that interferes with recovery. Other triggers include the site of certain people, the memory of a particular event or celebration, the pressure or stress felt from a hurtful past or from people who've been harmed and are holding anger or resentment.  

Deciding whether or not to go to a holiday gathering can be a difficult choice since not everyone will know or understand your recovery plan or addiction.  

Here are a few tips to help you or a loved one through the holiday season: 

  • When attending events, take along someone who supports your recovery. Sponsors or significant others may be your best support. Also, set a plan for leaving. Know how long you plan to stay and agree on a word you can say when the event becomes too much and you want to leave. 
  • If you are not at an event with your sponsor, take his/her number with you. Set up check-in times if you know your emotions will run high.
  • Know your triggers and develop a list of coping strategies. Write these down and carry them with you for quick reference.
  • Journal. Consider journaling before or after an event. It can make a good reference for what did or didn't work, or trigger you.
  • Talk about your recovery with friends and family whom you trust. Those who care about you, will likely support you.
  • Volunteer. It is a way to feel good and bring a smile to your heart.

Remember, to you or your loved one, using was normal and not using is abnormal. Attending events this time of the year can feel awkward, and almost wrong. It will get better and easier with time, patience and practice.

If you are supporting someone in recovery, having an alcohol or drug-free celebration may be important. Everyone is affected by the disease of addiction, and it's especially important to show love and empathy; not sympathy.

Enjoy your holidays, but be patient. Change is not easy and it does take time. Peace!

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