Even when you have maintained sobriety for months, or even years, you can still deal with cravings and triggers. Things like major life changes and holiday stress can make you prone to relapsing, regardless of how long you’ve been clean and sober. If you are currently addicted, holiday stress can cause you to increase your use, placing you at risk of experiencing a fatal or non-fatal overdose.
While 23 million Americans struggle with an addiction or substance abuse disorder each and every year, 10% of adults are actively recovering from addiction. This means that there are more people in recovery than struggling with addiction. While substance abuse disorders are relatively common, addiction is a chronic disease that forces you to manage symptoms throughout your lifetime.
Addiction and Relapse
Addiction is a progressive mental health disease that impacts your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Drugs and alcohol are neurotransmitter inhibitors that force your brain to release a rush of pleasurable neurotransmitters. Your brain’s pleasure and reward center connects your substance use with happiness, leading to your brain positively reinforcing your drug use. Substances like opiates, cocaine, and benzodiazepines can also cause fatal overdoses.
The longer you abuse drugs and alcohol, the more damaging the consequences become. Your liver is responsible for filtering impurities, which include psychoactive substances. This means that long-term drug and alcohol abuse can cause liver damage.
The brain chemistry changes caused by addiction can also lead to mood and behavioral changes. Since addiction creates significant neurotransmitter imbalances, if you have a co-occurring mental health disorder your symptoms can rapidly worsen. Cravings and triggers can also make it difficult to remain clean and sober. Triggers are people, places or things that remind you of your substance of choice. Whenever you are exposed to triggers, you experience intensified cravings.
Cravings can greatly increase your risk of relapsing, which occurs when you return to abusing drugs or alcohol after achieving a period of complete abstinence.
Holiday Stress and Recovery
Whether you are in active addiction or recovery, holiday stress can serve as a trigger. Many holidays, like New Year and Christmas, oftentimes involve parties with drugs and alcohol. Drinking is especially common during the New Year, which can pose a serious risk to your sobriety. Holiday stress can also create emotional problems, especially if you had a traumatic childhood or have bad memories about holidays.
Another common cause of holiday stress is managing your addiction or recovery with family obligations. During addiction, holiday stress may cause you to use more than you normally would. In recovery, holiday stress can cause tension, anxiety, and depression, making it more difficult to cope with triggers.
Some of the best ways to limit your holiday stress include:
- Attending an AA or NA meeting
- Talking to your therapist or sponsor
- Making sober holiday plans
- Avoiding venues that serve alcohol
- Celebrating the holidays with sober friends and family members
If you are experiencing unusually intense cravings during the holidays, you’re far from alone. Family conflict is more common during the holidays, especially if your family only gets together during holiday celebrations. When you are in recovery, managing holiday stress means focusing on how to best support your sobriety, even if that means making separate sober holiday plans.
Finding Treatment Today
When you are recovering from a substance abuse disorder, holiday stress can serve as a dangerous trigger. No matter what stage of recovery you are in, cravings and triggers are unavoidable. It’s important to recognize that holiday stress can place your sobriety at risk unless you are prepared to utilize healthy coping skills. If you are struggling with your recovery and would like to reach out for help, call us today at 855.259.1624.