How can people with addiction issues avoid triggers during the holidays?
The holiday season comes with revelry and celebration, and for a lot of people all that celebrating is accompanied by alcohol.
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - The holiday season comes with revelry and celebration, and for a lot of people all that celebrating is accompanied by alcohol.
For people who struggle with substance use disorder or similar, breathing in that atmosphere of normalized drinking can be challenging, according to Dr. Amelia McPeak.
“We see an increase in both overall relapse into addiction plus substance use occurs over the holiday season,” McPeak said.
McPeak said stress is one of the most common causes of relapse into addiction, and the holidays have no shortage of stress.
“It’s supposed to be this sort of wonderful, perfect time of year, but there’s so much expectations and emotions involved during the times of the holidays,” she said.
McPeak said the holidays often dredge up emotions that can lead people to relapse.
“It often brings up feelings of loss and grief. Grandma who always used to be there at the holidays isn’t there, or mom and dad isn’t there,” McPeak said. “It brings up feelings of sadness, and those overwhelming emotions also can increase the risk in triggering you for relapse into substance use.”
McPeak said that when people with addiction issues are entering social situations around the holidays, they need to have a plan.
“A plan of how they’re going to get there, and how they’re going to leave,” McPeak said. “Either they have their own transportation or somebody supportive so that if it turns out that it’s, you know, mostly a heavy drinking party and that’s what the event turns out to be, they can easily step out and leave the situation where they’re going to be overly tempted and higher risk for relapse.”
For people who have loved ones with substance use issues, McPeak said it’s important to check up on them and make sure to show support during what can be a difficult time.
“If you’re going to have a big gathering, is kind of check in with them for the gathering, saying how’ve you been doing recently with their emotions and their expectations,” McPeak said. “How do you think you’re going to handle this party? Because I know this is going to be stressful for you”
McPeak said another way to help family members who may be struggling on social occasions is to make sure to stock nonalcoholic beverages.
Copyright 2023 WTAP. All rights reserved.