Tips to Keep You Safe for the Holidays – and After

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The holiday season come with unmistakable sounds: the sound of Christmas carols being played over department store speakers, the rush of a colder wind as night falls earlier, the tearing of wrapping paper, and of course the clinking of glasses ringing throughout voices raised in gathering. The holidays are a time to rejoice and celebrate, however, for someone suffering from or struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, it can be an easy gateway to trouble. As most data shows, holidays can be stressful and difficult, especially when it comes to drug and alcohol use. For a safe and happy holiday, it’s important to be aware of the dangers and triggers, to stay safe and keep urges under control.

The holidays can be stressful to begin with, but for people dealing with drug and alcohol disorders, the holidays intensifies their struggle. There are a lot of physical, mental, and social reasons for their struggles, and the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has added to the holiday struggle, creating economic uncertainty, job loss, and yes, more family dysfunction.

For many, the end of the year brings images of happy families gathered around a Christmas tree, big dinners of turkey and stuffing, holiday music, and cozy fires. Unfortunately, emotional strain of the holidays and winter weather generally take a toll during the holiday months of December and January. The Center for Disease Control reports that alcohol-and-drug-induced deaths spike during these months. The holiday season this year is going to be different, and a learning curve for all, but for those that are struggling with substance abuse during the holidays, here are six tips for avoiding drugs and alcohol abuse during the season:

  1. Start Each Day With a Plan
    A person with a alcohol or drug abuse disorder needs to wake up each morning thinking about how to stay safe throughout the day. Once they have a plan, they should be fine for the rest of that day.” The key is staying focused on your goal of safety.
  2. Bring The Party With You
    Take along a food or safe drink that you enjoy. For instance, if champagne is a trigger for you at a New Year’s Party, bring a flavored, sparkling water or a soda to sip as the clock counts down.
  3. Know Your Triggers
    A person with substance abuse disorder should know their triggers and how to manage them, in order to take care of themselves, mentally and physically.
  4. Keep Stress Under Control
    People with substance abuse disorders turn to alcohol or illegal substances as a way to cope with stress. So when stress seems as if it is beginning to strike, take a few minutes to decompress, meditate, or walk away instead. Push away thoughts of substance use.
  5. Follow H.A.L.T.
    HALT is an acronym that stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. It’s an important tool that reminds you to take care of yourself.

    Hungry
    Make it a point to eat regular meals no matter how busy you get. This will keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent you from feeling hungry or thirsty, which can be confused for a drug craving.

    Angry
    To avoid feeling angry or irritable, be sure that you’re practicing stress management. Get outside this holiday season to decrease stress and increase feel-good endorphins in the brain.

    Lonely
    Create a list of people who support you. These people will be there for you when you need it. Aside from close family and friends, also consider your sponsor and AA/NA group members.

    Tired
    The holiday season is busy, and you might spend more time out. Be sure you’re still getting enough sleep at night – around eight to nine hours.

  6. Distract Yourself
    Bring along a buddy who doesn’t drink, smoke, or use drugs to help you stay sober at social functions. Find an area far enough away from the bar, and strike up a conversation with someone. Offer to help your host so that you stay busy with little tasks.

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