Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and it can be a great time to share with family and friends. For those who are dealing with drug or alcohol addiction — especially in their teenage years — the holiday can also bring stress, pressure and family tension.
These issues can nudge an addict toward relapse. But there are ways to stay on the right path. It’s essential to know how to reach out for help during these times, whether that means a group meeting, being in touch with a sponsor or therapist or having trusted friends or family members to confide in. The journey doesn’t have to be a lonely one.
Here are some tips on how to fight the temptation of substance abuse during the holiday season, even when family stress emerges.
Get motivated, be strong
Motivation is a key element in avoiding a relapse. Make a plan for the day and fill it with activities to keep yourself occupied. Don’t let boredom take over, because temptation can come with it. Be prepared for when cravings hit. In a story with The Huffington Post, Dr. Howard Samuels writes that strength continues to build over time, and people in recovery should “flex your willpower muscles.”
“Research studies show that willpower can be limited, but only if we believe it is limited,” he says. “The truth is that temptation is everywhere. However, when you resist one temptation, you can better resist the next one more easily. And, every time you let an urge pass without giving in to it, you strengthen your neural connections so that with time, it gets easier to resist those urges. Long story short: You are only as strong as you will let yourself be.”
Do volunteer work
Here’s a great way for those dealing with addiction to get out of the house and do some good for people who need it. Volunteering isn’t always the easiest thing to begin, but there are plenty of opportunities out there, and it may boost the addict’s self-esteem. Constance Scharff writes about this for Psychology Today.
“The quickest way to feel better about your life is to help someone else,” she explains. “There are food pantries and kitchens all over the nation that need volunteer help. You might consider visiting a relative in a nursing home or making arrangements to assist at a VA dinner for elderly veterans (but don’t just show up unannounced).
Lean on a friend
If an addict is dreading the large Thanksgiving gathering, and all the uncomfortable questions and judgment that could come from extended family members, it could be helpful to bring a friend along. As Scharff writes, “… Having a friend with you who will support you can make things a whole lot better.”
“In some cases, family will be on better behavior if a non-family-member is around,” she says. “In other cases, your friend can help you keep things in perspective and keep you from escalating a situation if unkind words are said.”
The combination of drug/alcohol cravings and potentially tense family scenarios can cause stress to skyrocket. But knowing and understanding this can allow for planning ahead. Identify ways to escape to an empty room for a few quiet minutes, for example. Diana Rodriguez writes about stress relief in a story for Everyday Health, in which she features Kate Rhine, a certified addiction counselor.
“Many people turn to alcohol or illegal substances as a way to cope with stress,” Rodriguez writes. “So when stress strikes, take a few minutes to decompress and meditate instead. Push away thoughts of substance use. ‘Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you have to act on it,’ Rhine says. Also make time for regular exercise. ‘The urge to drink alcohol or use a drug often feels physical,’ she explains, so giving your body something else to do can satisfy the craving.”
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