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The Challenges of The Holidays

The holiday season presents particular challenges to those suffering from substance abuse and addiction. While it would be ideal for the holidays to be a time of unfettered enjoyment, relaxation and downtime from the work and stresses of life, it is not always so. For many people, the holidays may also represent a great deal of stress. Not only is now the time for travel and shopping for friends and family, but holiday times can be a reminder of family wounds, fresh or old – especially if there remains any kind of dysfunction in the immediate or extended family.

Those who have never suffered from addiction or mental illness can often overcome these stresses, or suppress their emotions for the sake of peace and quiet. But for those suffering from addiction, and especially those with co-occurring mental illness, may find that the holiday times actually act as a trigger for their disease. Times of high stress can set the stage for potential relapse, as well as depression, anxiety and self-defeating behaviors.

It is for that reason that recovering addicts and those suffering from mental illness should surround themselves with positive forces in their support system. The friends, family members and sponsors that are attuned to their particular circumstances, can be the ones best suited to assist an individual through a potentially difficult time.

This time of year may also be an ideal moment to refresh the relapse prevention techniques learned in recovery and even attend an unscheduled therapy session or two to reinforce the principles of long-term recovery and sobriety. An individual can also use this time to reach out to their treatment center, confirming that their sobriety is on track and revisiting an environment that they know is both welcoming and supportive.

While families and friends may see the holiday time as a reminder of the difficulties and pain they experienced during the time that their loved one was abusing substances, it can also be a time of healing and letting bygones be bygones. Everyone can benefit from happy and healthy holidays without anger or judgment.