While many people eagerly anticipate the togetherness and good cheer of the holiday season, it’s important to understand that not everyone feels joyful and bright this time of year. If you or a loved one has trouble with substance abuse and think substances are the only option to make it through the next few weeks, let us help.
A Time of Isolation and Uncertainty for Everyone
Some years have more burdens than blessings, it seems. While it’s essential to our mental health to find reasons to express gratitude, it’s also realistic to acknowledge tough times—and make a plan to get through them.
For example, 2020 presented many challenges and concerns about health, job security, and other vital issues due to the pandemic and other circumstances. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in August 2020 that many people expressed higher levels of depression, anxiety, substance use, and even suicide ideation. These findings were particularly concerning for young adults and members of the Black and Latino communities. KFF also shared data in October 2020 that indicated “one in four older adults report anxiety or depression amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Spikes in coronavirus cases in November 2020 and mandates to reduce socializing means that many people won’t be able to enjoy the holidays as they did before, and this increases feelings of isolation and depression.
But Why Are the Holidays Worse?
The holiday season in particular is a stressor for many people. There are numerous reasons for this:
- Financial pressures
- Family problems and associated triggers
- Social anxiety or a need to fit in
- Feeling “blue” or depressed
- Stress at work or with the expectations of the season
- Experiencing SAD
- Feeling disconnected from other people
- Unresolved trauma
Any one of these factors can prompt someone to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.
What do all these facts and stats mean to you? You’re not alone in how you feel. Maybe this provides some reassurance—or maybe not. Nevertheless, it’s vital to your well-being to recognize that your individual emotions are valid and that many resources can help you or someone you love make it through this challenging time.
If You’re Struggling, Here’s Where to Turn
If you’re proud of your choice to be sober but struggling to avoid relapse during the holidays, one of the first things you can do is revisit your treatment plan and see what needs to be tweaked. Your addiction counselor should be able to direct you to methods that can be expanded, such as different types of therapy, or modified to address key aspects of what is happening with you right now.
When you were in treatment, you probably worked through H.A.L.T. to understand your mental, emotional, and physical well-being:
Take a closer look at these factors and determine if they apply to you and why.
Another important step to maintain clarity is to talk it out with your 12-Step sponsor or step up your connection with other members of your 12-Step group or people within your sober network.
- If you need to have more structure, Alcoholics Anonymous has a directory of meetings, virtual conferencing, message boards, and chat rooms, or you can use a meeting finder to find an in-person event.
- Narcotics Anonymous also offers virtual meetings by video or phone.
As difficult as it might be to reach out, remember that you deserve care as much as anyone else—but until you ask for it, it’s unlikely anyone will know what you’re dealing with and how to help.
Cravings and Mental Health
Make sure to cope with cravings with healthy alternatives. We often forget while wrangling with a trigger that a craving usually lasts less than 30 minutes. Yes, this can seem like an eternity when you’re ticked off, afraid, lonely, annoyed, feeling helpless, or experiencing other negative emotions. But trust in your ability to ride out this uncomfortable wave with reliable methods.
If you’re mired in darker thoughts during the holidays or any other time, talk with someone immediately. Depression and addiction are co-occurring disorders, and it’s easy for people, especially men, to think suicide is the only solution to end the pain. Use these free, confidential support hotlines to begin the process of healing:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Offers trained professionals and additional resources to help many people, including senior citizens, people grieving the loss of a loved one, disaster survivors, veterans, young people, and members of the BIPOC and LGBTQA+ communities.
- Teen Health and Wellness: 800-784-2433 or the crisis text line: text HELLO to 741741
This site provides a long list of resources, such as Al-Anon/Alateen, to help young people find the help they need.
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or the crisis text line: 838255
For active service members, veterans, and their families, this hotline provides peer understanding and support.
Now Might Be the Time to Seek Treatment
If you or someone you love has problems with drug or alcohol use, the holidays might actually be the best time to seek professional help—and here are some good reasons why.
For 50 years, Willingway has provided people with evidence-based, medically-supervised treatment in our inpatient rehabilitation facility, in our extended and outpatient programs, and through dedicated continuing care.
You or your loved one deserves to live free of addiction and full of purpose and happiness. Talk to one of our admissions specialists today to learn how we can help.