Five Tips for Navigating the Holidays with a Substance Use Disorder

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The holidays are a great time to reconnect with family and friends, but they can also be stressful when you’re battling a substance use disorder. Maintaining sobriety at events can make you want to hide away at home and skip the whole holiday season. Here are five tips to help you plan for the festivities so you can enjoy them this year.

  • Look at the events you have coming up and don’t feel guilty if you decide to bail on a few that will put you in a too-vulnerable state of mind. Your mental health and sobriety are most important. Give yourself grace — those who love you most will understand.
  • Especially if you’re early in your journey, spend some time making a list of your key triggers and your coping mechanisms for each— simply put, what helps you and what hurts you? Keep it close by and reference it often as a reminder that the work you’ve done is important, and you are stronger than your disease.
  • Remember that you owe no one an explanation on your sobriety. However, if you feel nervous about impending questions, consider writing a short script. It can be as simple as, “Not tonight, thanks though,” or “I’m not in the mood” or “I’m the designated driver.” If you feel inclined to talk truthfully about your dependency, thinking through scenarios ahead of time can relieve a lot of anxiety. Also, be sure to keep a beverage in your hand so people aren’t constantly offering you a drink.
  • The holidays tend to be an excuse to slack off on diet and exercise, but this year, commit to going the opposite direction. Try to break a sweat a few times a week and follow up with something healthy to eat. Good habits feed good habits. The better you feel physically, the stronger you’ll feel mentally.
  • Remember that a typical craving only lasts about 20 minutes — bring a stash of your favorite food and drinks to distract you, just incase you start to feel tempted. Feeling deprived when you’re surrounded by people partaking and having a good time can be a powerful way to rationalize a relapse.

If maintaining sobriety feels like too much to handle on your own, there is absolutely no shame in seeking help. The SUN team is here 24/7 to offer no-cost level of care assessments.

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