To the editor:
‘Tis the season for holiday celebrations, family gatherings, work functions, and what seems like an endless supply of food and drink. For most people, the holidays are a joyous time of year, yet for many others, it can be a challenging and stressful time.
Take an individual in recovery from addiction, for example; they often face an uphill battle with maintaining sobriety this time of year.
An endless barrage of temptations can make it a tough situation. Yet, you do not want to avoid the holiday season. The best way to maintain sobriety over the holidays is to have a well-thought-out plan.
“Most people in recovery from substance use have a personalized holiday survival guide,” said Marcel Gemme of Addicted.org. “It may include ways to manage stress, find support, or have an exit plan. Taking these steps now prevents problems from occurring later.”
Initially, the first thing anyone should do is take care of their physical and mental well-being. The acronym H.A.L.T (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) is a common way to remember this. Stay well-fed, acknowledge positive and negative emotions, stay connected to others, and get adequate sleep at night.
Recognizing relapse triggers is another essential tip. Relapse triggers can stem from situations, such as environments, other people, sounds, smells, grief, or pain. It is important to know how to cope with these triggers properly.
The best approach is to manage them as they arise, so you do not find yourself in a holiday predicament.
Suppose you know you are attending a party where a wild family member encourages everyone to drink in excess, bring non-alcoholic drinks, or have an exit plan.
Finally, have a support system in place, whether it is a 12-step meeting, a family member, a friend, or a sober acquaintance. Attend some of the holiday parties with a sober friend. Utilize your support system when you need help. Do not let a situation become too much to handle.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction during the holidays, it is critical to intervene early. It is estimated that roughly 10% of the population in Ontario uses substances problematically.
Most addiction becomes progressively worse over the holiday season because of intense emotional triggers. There is also an increased risk of overdose because of the number of addicts who are alone over the holiday season.
Reach out to those in need and offer help. The holidays are about giving back and giving thanks.
Enjoy the time with family and friends, create new memories, and share in love, compassion, kindness, and joy.
Editor's note: Mr. Hayes has been working in the field of substance use and addiction recovery for over 15 years