Why Substance Use Might Increase During the Holidays

young woman sitting at home during the holidays looking lonely, looking down at smart phone while on couch at home

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:

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:

  • Hunger
  • Anger
  • Loneliness
  • Tired

Take a closer look at these factors and determine if they apply to you and why.

12-Step Support

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.

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.

Considering inpatient treatment in Georgia? To find out more about Willingway, contact us 24 hours a day at 888-979-2140, and let us help you get started on the road to recovery.Willingway - Addiction Treatment Experts

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