Keep Holiday Stress from Triggering a Relapse After Detox
The winter season brings many opportunities for laughter, for sharing goodwill and for spreading cheer. However, if you have recently finished a drug detox program, the season can also be a minefield of potential relapse triggers. Shorter days and longer nights, holiday parties where alcohol is served, awkward or difficult family gatherings, and money shortages in a time of gift-giving can all lead to stress and anxiety which, in turn, could tempt you to find escape from pressure in the wrong way. These situations could prove stressful for anyone, but if you are still recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, the tension could feel even more so.
What You Think Will Help Could Actually Hurt You
Perhaps in the past, you reached for a drink of alcohol to help you face strained family relationships. You will almost certainly be tempted to do so again over the holidays. Face your problem head on and decide in advance that you will not look to drugs or alcohol.
You think that a drink will help to take off the edge, but according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, that drink will initiate a flow of stress hormones in your brain, adrenal and pituitary glands. The alcohol you are considering to soothe you will in reality elevate your stress, not diminish it.
Look for Other Ways to Cope
Plan in advance for some positive coping mechanisms to help you deal with the stresses of the winter holiday season. Here are just a few to build into your thinking/schedule:
- Get lots of rest. Plan when you will go to bed and schedule in some time to just relax. If needed, play music that will help you unwind or use a meditation CD. Aromatherapy is another great way to ensure that you get the rest that your body needs in order to deal with stress.
- Get regular exercise. Not only is vigorous exercise a great way to reduce stress, but it has been shown to help reduce drug cravings as well. Even if it is just a brisk walk with the dog around the neighborhood, make sure that you make exercise part of your holiday regimen.
- Plan some calming activities. Exercise helps, but be sure to add in some activities which are soothing. Repetitive things like a massage, knitting, gardening or folding laundry can help us to slow down and become calm. Participating in a positive activity such as volunteering for a non-profit has also been proven to boost your sense of well-being. Be sure to attend your 12-step meetings even during an otherwise busy time.
- Carefully choose events. Think through which events and how many events you will attend. You don’t need to accept every invitation you receive. A polite refusal can help you stay in control of the stress and temptation level in your life. Avoid events where you know alcohol will be present or where you would mix socially with others who have been negative influences in the past. When you do attend an event, ask a friend or family member to keep an eye on you.
- Let your support system support you. Keep those people committed to your sober lifestyle close at hand. Ask them to share events you feel you must attend and make time to attend their events. Regular face time and phone calls will help you stay connected and in a positive frame of mind.
Just finishing your drug detox program brings a great sense of achievement. You have cleared the first hurdle of living sober. This is also a fragile time, however, and you need to be alert to the dangers that the season may present to you. By recognizing potential triggers you are empowered to take the steps necessary to maintain the forward progress begun in drug detox.