How the holidays can affect problems with addiction

For people who have never experienced chemical dependency , addiction can be difficult to understand. Addiction is recognized as a disease. It involves changes of the brain, which means that willpower alone isn’t enough to overcome it. Addiction is difficult for families to deal with at any time of the year, but the holiday season presents unique challenges. In the accompanying video, a psychiatrist at Good Samaritan Hospital recommends that families of addicts and recovering addicts seek help for themselves in order to better help their loved ones.

Understanding holiday-related stressors
The holidays are supposed to be a merry time of year, when families can relax and enjoy each other’s company. For recovering addicts, however, the holidays may only bring more pressure to stay sober. Try to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes to understand what he or she is dealing with.

The holiday season can induce worsening stress, anxiety and depression in some individuals, which can trigger a chemical dependency relapse . Holiday gift-giving can highlight financial problems—another possible trigger for relapse.

Additionally, there are societal pressures to enjoy alcoholic beverages at holiday parties. Get-togethers may put recovering addicts in contact with family members and friends, with whom they previously drank or did drugs.

Providing opportunities for substance abuse
Families often travel for the holiday season, which can expose the recovering addict to substances of abuse. Even if the host of the gathering is forewarned to not serve alcohol, it’s possible that the recovering addict will find prescription medications in the bathroom cabinet. Relapse is very common, but families can help prevent it by controlling the environment.

Before traveling with a loved one with addiction, call the host and ask that all alcohol and medications be kept under lock and key. If your family will be staying at a hotel, call the front desk ahead of time to request that all alcohol be removed from the mini bar before your loved one checks in.

Having a backup plan
Since relapse is common, families should have a backup plan that they can use to help their loved one get through an urge to drink or take drugs. Designate someone whom the recovering addict trusts to stay close to your loved one during holiday get-togethers. The buddy system gives the recovering addict someone to talk to if problems occur, and the designated buddy can get your loved one out of challenging environments if the need arises.

Behavioral Health Services are available at Good Samaritan Hospital throughout the year. Our compassionate providers are committed to improving quality of life for families throughout our San Jose community. Talk to a trusted, friendly member of our nursing staff by calling (888) 724-2362.

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