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The Holidays, Stress and Addiction
The holidays can be a very stressful and emotional time, but for those dealing with drug and alcohol use it can quickly become a harrowing ordeal. Thanksgiving to New Year’s is a time when families come together to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. There’s a lot of eating, hugging and catching up to do, but for many individuals who struggle with substance use disorders the stress of worrying about things from money, gifts, parties, and obligatory family get-togethers just to name a few, can leave them feeling overwhelmed and confused.
Awareness and education can be the first line of defense not only for the person in recovery but also for their loved ones. “Sometimes just recognizing that a party or other social gathering situation will be stressful and making a mental game plan for how to navigate it can make all the difference”, says Ted Park, MD at Boston Medical Center. “Avoiding stressful situations and triggers altogether might be easier said than done, but doing so is the most effective approach, particularly for those who are newly in recovery” Park continued. “If it’s impossible to avoid the situation, then changing the situation to reduce stress is advisable, examples of changing the situation may involve only going to an event for a short period of time or only going to family events that you know there will be less stress.”
“If it’s impossible to avoid the situation, then changing the situation to reduce stress is advisable, examples of changing the situation may involve only going to an event for a short period of time or only going to family events that you know there will be less stress.”
Those who are struggling with active addiction or are in recovery are best supported when others are empathetic to their struggle, especially in a family setting. For many, family serves as a trigger so being very aware of what may cause a person to relapse and trying to eliminate or lesson that stress may make all the difference. Make no mistake, the struggle that you or your loved one suffering from addiction faces should not be treated lightly. Communication is one of the best gifts a person in recovery can receive, or give to themselves and their loved ones, over the holidays. And, even though it may be easier to avoid and deny that someone is struggling, it is even more important and beneficial to support and pay close attention to what others may be experiencing and not just what’s under the tree.
So take some time and ask with genuine sincerity “how are you doing? “and then listen to the answer. It may seem inconsequential but expressing concern in a positive way could brighten someone’s day or even lead to a more meaningful conversation.
For more information about addiction support services and treatment at BMC, visit BMC.org/addiction.