Thanks to COVID-19 vaccines, this year’s holiday season is likely to feel more “normal” than last year, with family gatherings, holiday parties, and many other traditional festivities making a cautious return.
For people in recovery from a substance use disorder, the holidays can be an especially difficult time for a number of reasons. Parties, gatherings, and different memories and feelings associated with the holiday season can make it difficult to stay focused on recovery.
The holidays can magnify feelings of loneliness, strained finances, or difficult family relationships, all of which could lead to feelings of wanting to drink or use drugs. Travel can also throw some off from their normal routine, especially if they regularly go to recovery support group meetings.
If you or someone you love is in recovery and are worried about getting through the holidays, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. We have put together a list of tips and resources to help people in recovery from a substance use disorder get through the holidays.
- Have a plan – It’s important to have a plan going into the holidays. What will you do if you’re offered a drink or if a trigger arises and drugs or alcohol are available? If you start feeling uncomfortable at a party or gathering, will you have a way to leave? Thinking through potential situations that could possibly lead to alcohol or drug use will help you prepare for the unplanned and unexpected.
- Redefine the holidays – For many, the holidays are a hectic time filled with big expectations. It also may be a time that brings up bad memories or feelings of loneliness and dread. Try reframing the holidays as just another day, as an opportunity to make new traditions and memories, or even as a time to relax and take some time for yourself. This will help take some of the pressure away from having to celebrate the holidays a certain way.
- Let people know – Letting a supportive person know you are abstaining from drugs and alcohol during the holidays will help combat feelings of loneliness or isolation that can arise. Good friends and loved ones are likely to be supportive of your decision to stay sober and encourage you in your recovery process. It may also help to give people a heads up that you may need to leave a party or gathering early if you become uncomfortable.
- Attend a recovery support meeting – Many recovery support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and SMART Recovery continue to meet throughout the holidays, even on Christmas and New Year’s Day. You can find a meeting near you on the website of the recovery fellowship you wish to attend. If you are traveling for the holiday and find it difficult to find an in-person meeting, there are plenty of great online meetings as well. Some online recovery meetings include but are not limited to:
- AAhomegroup.org – A 24-hour, international AA meeting held through Zoom. Meeting topics and formats change on the hour.
- In the Rooms – An online recovery community that holds many online meetings and can help connect you to in-person meetings and other people in recovery in your area.
- Unity Recovery – Offers free online recovery support meetings not specific to any fellowship on varying days and times. Meetings include Individual All Recovery, Families, LGBTQ+, Women, Mothers, and more.
- Connect with friends in recovery – Keep other people in recovery on speed dial or at the top of your texts. A quick check-in with someone else in recovery can help you feel less alone in a place where you may be one of the only people who isn’t drinking or using other substances.
- Take a break – Be sure to take some time for yourself! If you’re spending lots of time with family and friends, step away for a breather occasionally. Use the time to meditate, call someone else in recovery, or do something for yourself.
- Get support online – If you’re traveling for the holidays, it might be difficult to find a recovery support group meeting, or even to find the time to attend a full meeting online. Another way to stay connected to recovery is through online forums, where people from around the world share and discuss anything going on in their own lives and recovery process. Below are some popular online recovery forums:
- r/stopdrinking – This reddit forum is a place where people in recovery and newly in recovery can check-in daily, share their experiences, and encourage one another. With 328k members, this forum is a great place to connect with others and maybe even help someone who is struggling.
- r/redditorsinrecovery – While not quite as big at the r/stopdrinking forum, this reddit page is another great online community for folks in recovery to share their experiences and support for one another.
- Sober Recovery – This worldwide online forum is a place where people with substance use disorders can find assistance and helpful information from other people in recovery. Many helpful threats on different topics, such as gratitude, fear and anxiety, and newcomer’s daily support will help anyone looking for support online.
- Call the SAMHSA hotline – If you or someone you love is really struggling to maintain their recovery during the holidays, or has a recurrence of use and may need treatment, you can call the SAMHSA hotline at 800-662-HELP (4357). This 24-hour, 365-day-a-year helpline offers treatment referral and information in English and Spanish for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Getting through the holidays can be tough, but remember you are not alone.