The holiday season is here again. Even in a normal year, it’s a stressful time for many people around the country. This year is particularly challenging because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease expert, has warned about the risk of big family gatherings, especially those held indoors. “I think given the fluid and dynamic nature of what’s going on right now in the spread and the uptick of infections, I think people should be very careful and prudent about social gatherings, particularly when members of the family might be at a risk because of their age or their underlying condition,” Fauci said in a CBS interview in October.
The worsening pandemic has added another layer of relapse risk for people in recovery. On the plus side, it’s a good opportunity to be honest and open about healthy holiday activities with yourself and your family.
Is it safe for my family and me to visit in person?
Is being there supportive of my recovery?
What are my reasons for attending?
Maybe COVID is a good reason to change your plans this year. Also, consider what not visiting your loved ones could mean for you. If you decide to visit or perhaps participate in an online gathering, revisit the communication tools you acquired in treatment to prepare for being in contact with those who can trigger you during the holidays.
Explain your needs beforehand. Prepare the get-together. And then prepare some more.
Make a plan. Decide whether you want to be open about your recovery with people who don’t know about your disease or offer a gentle reminder to those who do. Have an exit strategy if things become too stressful. Remember that addiction is also a family disease that requires clear, open, and honest communication between family members to support recovery.
“Addiction is not simply about substance misuse, it is primarily about unhealthy relationships,” says Kyle Kone who oversees clinical programs at Recovery Ways. Connecting with alumni programs and local support groups can be an integral part of coping with holiday stressors.
And unhealthy relationships—so often on display over the holidays—can easily unleash unhealthy emotions in people with addiction. According to addiction expert Terence T. Gorski, the relapse process includes eleven distinct steps beginning with “unhealthy emotions” in step one. Gorski describes “triggers” (step four) as “Something happens, usually involving other people.”
Better to be aware of how much other people can push your buttons. Avoid “Uncle Bob” if there was tension last year. Look at what can be done before family gatherings to let go of the tension. Clearing emotional space will make for a more pleasant time with those family members.
Avoid denial of feelings. Acknowledge any sadness or resentment and deal with unhealthy emotions appropriately. Acknowledging feelings starts the healing process, holding them in can cause disease in the body making any anxiety or depression worse.
If you, a family member, or a friend are struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues, Recovery Ways wants to help. We are dually licensed to treat mental health disorders and addiction. Don’t delay seeking treatment because of the holidays. Our admissions coordinators can recommend a plan of action, suggest an interventionist, or speak with your loved one. For more information, please call us at (888) 988-5217.