The combination of stressful holidays and difficult family members can create a tough mix to swallow. Recovering substance abusers can be prone to relapse in times of emotional difficulty. Experts provided numerous strategies for handling this time of year, such as thinking ahead, prioritizing obligations and other techniques.
Peter R. Martin, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and director of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center, said substance abusers should wake up each day with a plan for sobriety, with all other goals kept secondary. The plan includes ranking the mental risk of certain situations and adjusting schedules accordingly. For example, if parties are difficult for certain individuals (especially if drinking is involved), they should consider either skipping the event or leaving early.
Kate Rhine, a licensed clinical social worker and certified addiction counselor, commented that eating a filling meal every three hours is beneficial to tempering impulses and resisting old negative habits during events.
Family members can be nosy and demand to know why others are not partaking in certain events and substances. Rehearsing responses to these queries can lessen the anxiety of the situation. Rhine also pointed out that the typical craving lasts 20 minutes, so learning to bear temptation for that amount of time is a powerful tool for long-term recovery.
Preventing relapse around the holidays is just one peril of the recovering addict. Maintaining sobriety on typical days takes its own strategies. Howard Samuels, Psy.D., a psychotherapist and contributor with the Huffington Post knows firsthand the difficulties of addiction and falling off the wagon. He said he was able to rationalize that drink back into his hand, setting the tone for a relapse.
Samuels wrote that building willpower (like a muscle) is the key to sustaining recovery. He claimed that studies find this mental component growing with each use, so with each temptation resisted comes more power to stay sober next time. Samuels practiced patience in his own circumstance, not just with family members learning to trust after the burn of addiction but with himself and the ups and downs of the sober life. Frustration can only lead to more mental and substance abuse difficulties.
If coping strategies fail and relapse sets in, seeking addiction treatment specialists is recommended to arrive back on the right track and enjoy the sober life again.
The Sovereign Health Group is a behavioral health organization dedicated to treating addiction patients with the utmost care to prevent relapse. Call our 24/7 helpline to find out more about our variety of treatments.
Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer