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Why the Holidays Are Hard for Recovery

The holidays are often a challenging time for people recovering from addiction but with a little awareness and foresight, you can stay sober and have a good time. Here are some common holiday pitfalls and how to avoid them.


Family conflict

Holiday gatherings with family are breeding grounds for arguments about politics, life choices, old grievances, and pretty much everything else. Family can get under your skin in ways others can’t, so family arguments can be especially stressful. At family gatherings, do yourself and everyone else a favor and avoid controversial topics. You won’t change anyone’s mind anyway. Focus instead on finding consensus and listening to what others have to say and trying to understand their perspective, even when it is obviously wrong and terrible. 


Holiday parties

You may get invited to a lot of holiday parties, whether it’s for work, with friends, or family. There is often alcohol at these parties and it can be tempting to have a drink and awkward to turn down alcohol. There are several strategies for staying sober at holiday parties. For example, it’s always a good idea to have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand so people don’t offer you alcohol. It’s also a good idea to bring a sober friend if you can, so you can keep each other accountable. 


Financial stress

Holidays tend to be financially stressful for a lot of people. Family expect you to travel to see them, you may feel like you have to buy presents for a lot of people, and on top of all that, your holiday work schedule might mean you don’t have as much money as you usually do. Try to manage your commitments so you don’t feel overextended. Focus on giving gifts that are thoughtful rather than expensive. And don’t feel like you have to buy something for everyone.


Unhealthy eating

There is quite a bit of research now that shows a healthy diet can protect against mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Those are also commonly co-occurring conditions with substance use disorders. Unfortunately, the holiday season is a time for eating badly. People are constantly offering you sweets, whether it’s candy and cookies at work or four different pies at your family’s holiday dinner. Be aware of all this extra sugar and try to eat sensibly, even though most people use the holiday as an excuse to eat sweets. 


Shorter, colder days

Compounding all the issues above, the days get shorter and colder as the holidays approach. This causes a number of issues, including the winter blues and possibly even seasonal affective disorder. This is more of a problem in northern climates. It messes up your circadian rhythm and keeps you from getting outside for exercise. As a result, you may feel lethargic and depressed. Try to get a bit of sun and exercise, even if it’s chilly outside. That will also help you not gain weight when you eat too much stuffing. 


The holidays are challenging for people in recovery but with a little forethought and discipline, you can make it through with no problem. On top of the tips above, be sure to stick to your recovery plan and stay connected to sober friends. At Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California, our unique program helps men build a healthy lifestyle free from drugs and alcohol. Call us today at 855-202-2138 to learn more and see if our program is right for you.

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