Christmas has been and probably always will be the most widely-anticipated event of the year. However, even the most wonderful time of the year comes with its drawbacks— and its ironies. No matter what stage of treatment they’re at, the people in addiction recovery face certain aspects of the holiday season that pose problems and risks to their sobriety. Namely, the holiday season can potentially trigger a relapse. Here are just a few of the many contradictions surrounding Christmas that contribute to relapse rates over the holiday season:
Christmas is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
…But it’s Also the Most Stressful
Stress and anxiety are two of the most harmful triggers in addiction recovery, and both reach an all-time high during the holiday season. For a season that’s supposed to represent peace and joy, Christmas is absolutely riddled with busy schedules, endless to-do lists, family conflicts, financial pressures and mass feeling of overwhelming exhaustion.
These pressures are enough of a challenge for people going about their everyday lives; a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that, during Christmastime, almost half of the U.S. population cope with stress by engaging in unhealthy behaviors like overeating and binge drinking. For people recovering from substance addiction, this level of stress is more than enough to trigger a relapse.
Christmas Symbolizes Unity and Joy
…But it Also Breeds Feelings of Isolation and Loneliness
By now, it’s widely known that depressive feelings surge during the holiday season; probably as much as stress does. While it is true that Christmas is a time for families to gather from far and near to spend time together, ironically enough, this could be a factor in the annual rise of depression and feelings of isolation. After all, no one is exempt from some family drama. Being around family doesn’t always bring about happy feelings or memories. Additionally, people struggling to stay sober may find themselves in awkward situations that could easily trigger a relapse. Such circumstances could include coming into contact with family members who don’t support them or make them feel guilty or ashamed of their struggles. Without guidance from their support group, people in recovery are at increased risk of depression, feelings of isolation or exclusion, and subsequent relapse.
Christmas Embodies Hope for the Future
…But Haunts Us with the Past
The ghost of Christmas past doesn’t make an exception for anyone. Reflecting on the past has always been a favorite family pastime, but for those in addiction recovery, this can be harmful. In fact, thinking back on memories that are linked to past substance use is one of the easiest ways to trigger a relapse. It doesn’t matter if those memories bring out feelings of happiness, sadness, anger, guilt or shame. As long as those memories revolve around addiction, looking back on them might be enough to trigger unwanted cravings.
Christmas Can Incite Spikes in Substance Abuse
…But a Decrease in the Number of Addiction Treatment Admissions
One of the biggest reasons why Christmas is such a trigger-ridden holiday is because overindulgence is not only expected but encouraged during celebrations. People will eat more, drink more, and indulge more in poor habits that could eventually prove detrimental to their health. In fact, recorded instances of alcohol consumption increase drastically in December and also in the week leading up to the New Year.
This seasonal spike in alcohol consumption, in turn, contributes to the recorded increase in drunk driving incidents during the holidays. And yet, despite the significant increase in substance abuse in general, most people suffering from addiction refuse to seek help during the holidays. The same can be said for the people in recovery who are on the brink of relapse. Instead, the number of admissions into rehab facilities seem to only increase after the start of the New Year.
Christmas Inspires Us to Make Resolutions for the New Year
…But We Almost Never Follow Through on Them
Making resolutions for the New Year following Christmas is something that everyone does. Unfortunately, even the mildest resolutions don’t always come to fruition. Despite the many serious consequences, sometimes those who have not yet sought addiction treatment will put it off so that they can “still enjoy” the holiday festivities instead of focusing on rehab.
So, a lot of the time, the people who promise themselves and others that they’ll enter rehab for addiction treatment after January 1st are just making empty excuses for one last binge. The people who are serious about changing their lives don’t hang their willpower on a flimsy resolution; instead, they take action as soon as possible, even if it means Christmas falls by the wayside.
Avoid Relapsing During Christmas with Help from TTC Outpatient Services
People struggling with addiction struggle more around Christmas. With so many triggers at play, it’s not hard to imagine why. Thankfully, outpatient services can help them stay on the right track so as not to trigger a relapse. Whether you are in recovery already or thinking about entering rehab for the first time, the TTC Outpatient Services are always open 24/7 every day to help those in need— even on Christmas. For more information, please call (844) 211-7944. All calls are confidential.