Published On: December 7, 2015|Categories: Recovery|

The holidays conjure up images of joy, happy families, shared meals, and exchanging presents. But for many families with members recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, the holiday season proves very difficult and stressful. They are surrounded by triggers that may result in a relapse.

Sobriety doesn’t lead to instant happiness, and teenagers are especially susceptible to relapsing. Are you or your loved one at risk? Read on for holiday stress triggers and how to keep yourself and loved ones from slipping back into old, harmful patterns.

Stress Triggers During the Holidays

In order to avoid them, first you need to be aware of holiday stress triggers.

  • The Pressures of the Season
    We’re bombarded with holiday commercials featuring picture-perfect families, an emphasis on the material aspect of the season, and the expectation to be joyful during a time that is often lonely. Pressure to “be happy” can magnify depression or induce anxiety for you or your teen.
  • The Effects of Stress
    All teens suffer stress from school, relationships, and home. During the holidays, these sources intensify stress, bringing on feelings of guilt, shame and loneliness. It’s common for a recovering addict to seek relief with drugs or alcohol.
  • A Loss of Control
    Teens in recovery must cut ties with friends who are users, avoid social situations they used to thrive on, and give up negative habits they relied on to get them through their problems. They’re forced to avoid holiday traditions that can lead to using again, like a New Year’s Eve party or school dance.
  • Abandonment of Self Care
    Eating healthy, sleeping well, exercising, and practicing relaxation can all go out the door for anyone preparing for the holidays. Feeling well physically and emotionally is especially vital for those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

How to Avoid Triggers During the Holidays

It’s not easy, so we want to give you a few ideas for you and your loved ones to conquer the risk of relapsing this holiday season.

  • Recognize the Warning Signs
    Is there a personality change in your teen? Are they withdrawn, being secretive, or becoming aggressive? Have they reconnected with people they used to drink or do drugs with? Pay close attention to their actions and behaviors at home and school.
  • Gain Self Control and Practice Healthy Coping Skills
    Call a friend to check in daily, journal, or practice yoga. The key is to find something that works for you and your teen. A daily routine is vital for teens to help them maintain a sense of control. Rather than push something on them, discuss options and let them choose. A club, sports team, or volunteer opportunity all offer a sense of purpose. A support group is a wonderful way for teens to connect with others who understand their struggles.
  • Schedule Family Time
    Work with everyone’s schedules to plan family dinners. Get your teen involved in meal planning and cooking. Have a no-device rule. Share the good and bad about your day to make your teen comfortable about opening up. Ask them open-ended questions to allow their voice to be heard and give them control over the conversation.
  • Create New Holiday Memories
    If past holidays bring up bad feelings for you or your teen, create new, positive memories. Plan an outing to a Christmas tree farm. Volunteer at a shelter. Have a cookie-baking and present-wrapping session. Choose a holiday movie to watch together. Allow your teen to move forward instead of being stuck in the past. It’s never too late!

There is hope! Rehab After Work is here to help you or your loved one who may be struggling with a relapse this holiday. Our mission is to provide teen, adult, and family therapy to those suffering from past drug and alcohol use. We provide year-round outpatient counseling for teens and adults through our programs Rehab After School and Rehab After Work. For more information, please visit our website. Counselors may also be reached confidentially at (610) 644-6464. During this difficult time for you and your loved ones, help is just a call away.

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