Let’s be honest; Thanksgiving can be a stressful time, especially for recovering addicts. Whether it is from holiday traveling, being around family, being alone on Thanksgiving, or the stress of hosting your own celebration, there are a lot of different relapse triggers. The good news is that if you’re prepared and ready, you can overcome any cravings to use or drink on Thanksgiving, as well as the whole holiday season.
Triggers For Relapse on Thanksgiving
Before we go over different ways to cope with the stresses of Thanksgiving, it is important to know the different triggers that can cause a relapse, causing you to lose everything you have worked so hard for. Most relapses begin with a trigger, which is a stressor that can prompt a thought, feeling, or action leading to the use of drugs and/or alcohol. During this season, triggers are everywhere, and staying vigilant by knowing what these triggers look like is important. Some triggers may include:
- Dealing with family relationships: Perhaps the relationship between you and your family is still strained from your time using drugs and alcohol, and the relationship hasn’t gotten a chance to repair itself yet. Being around these family members again can cause anxiety and stress.
- Having no one to spend Thanksgiving with Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of year filled with family and friends, but it isn’t always the case for recovering addicts. Being alone during time can be triggering for people.
- Constant interactions with alcohol and those under the influence: Thanksgiving is a holiday where a lot of people celebrate with alcohol. It can sometimes feel unavoidable and cause feelings of anxiety by being around alcohol and drunk friends and family who might not understand your situation.
- Managing the pressures of Thanksgiving: like hosting parties or traveling.
Relapse not only takes away the sober time you have worked so hard for, but it can also be deadly. According to NIDA:
A relapse can be very dangerous—even deadly. If a person stops taking drugs and then takes the amount they used before quitting, they can easily overdose. Their body is no longer used to having the same amount of the drug in its system. An overdose happens when a drug causes serious, harmful symptoms or death.
There are also certain signs to look out for when it comes to relapse. If you can pinpoint when these things are happening, then it can be easier to avoid relapse altogether. These signs include:
- A decline in personal hygiene
- Bottling up emotions
- Mood swings or erratic behavior
- Withdrawal from loved ones, activities such as recovery meetings, and hobbies
- Reduced performance in your job
- Neglecting healthy habits like eating poorly or not getting enough sleep
- Spending time with old friends or places you associate with using
- Daydreaming and fantasizing about using again
- Picking up old habits that are no longer productive to your sober lifestyle
How to Cope With Triggers
Now that we have an idea of what triggers for relapse look like during Thanksgiving and the signs of relapse, it is important to know what kind of coping mechanisms you can use to bring you back from that ledge.
- Plan your support system ahead of time: The holidays are a great time to reach out to people who can support you. This may include people like a therapist, sponsor, support group, or friends you have met in recovery. Having people there you can talk to that understands exactly how you are feeling can provide a great sense of comfort and also a sense of accountability. You shouldn’t feel like you have to go through this by yourself.
- Tell people you are in recovery: There is nothing wrong with letting others know you are sober. It can help to avoid putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation, later on, like when someone asks if you want a drink.
- Don’t be afraid to say no: You will know, more than anyone else, what can cause problems for you during the festivities. The key is to prepare yourself for what could trigger you. If you have a family member or event that has caused you problems in the past, it might be better just to completely avoid the situation. It is completely okay to decline an invitation. Instead, try spending Thanksgiving with a friend also in recovery.
- Avoid isolation: Often times in recovery, you may feel more content by yourself rather than surrounded by people. However, it is important to avoid isolating yourself.
- Focus on others: Whether it is volunteering with a charity to give back during Thanksgiving or spending time with people who are a positive influence on you, focusing on other people is helpful to get you out of your own way.
We are Here To Help
Thanksgiving can be a tough time for many addicts and alcoholics in recovery or those still trying to get sober. Here at Garden State Treatment Center, we offer the help you need not only to help get you sober but to keep you sober during hard times like the holidays. We will go above and beyond to motivate, inspire and support you during your search for long term recovery. Getting and staying sober isn’t easy; luckily, you don’t have to face it alone. Now is the time to make the changes you need to better your life, let us help you do it!