The holidays are no ordinary time for your sobriety. The upcoming season can be filled with both negative and positive emotions that can contribute to potential triggers for relapse, from the elation you feel at a holiday party surrounded by good company to the grief you may experience from missing a deceased loved one on Christmas morning.
The festive season is a chance to break out of the normal routine of the year as we anticipate a fresh start with the new year, and any change in routine can compromise sobriety. In this article, we’ll continue to explore the challenge of sobriety and the holidays with a special focus on coping with cravings.
Sobriety and the holidays
The process of recovery necessitates a strong focus on structure. Both inpatient and outpatient treatment follow a strict structure and require adherence to specific protocols and rules. The structure is designed from evidence-based addiction science and is designed to give individuals the best chance of long-term recovery possible.
Structure in daily life is essential for those in recovery, too. You’re likely to find that in the first days and weeks of recovery, you’ll need to fill your days in an orderly way to avoid opportunities for loneliness and boredom. In a way, structure helps to eliminate time that you could be using drugs or alcohol.
The holidays abruptly disrupt the normal structure of society. Many companies offer time off work and the culture places an emphasis on leisure and enjoyment during the holidays. Extra time and an invitation to indulge can surely spark cravings even when you feel strong in your sobriety.
Protecting the progress you’ve made in treatment and sticking to recovery can be more challenging during this season. Preparing with the following information can put you ahead of the game so you don’t make a decision you’ll regret.
Building coping skills for the season
Preparing for the unstructured nature of the holiday season and guarding yourself against cravings is crucial. One of the best ways to prepare for potential triggers to relapse is to build a repertoire of coping skills. Coping skills (sometimes called coping strategies or coping mechanisms) are methods used to manage distress.
Coping skills can help us tolerate difficult situations or emotions in the heat of the moment and later on when the feelings are lingering. These skills are often learned in therapy or can be self-taught. Some coping strategies require equipment or materials (like biking or reading), but the best coping tools are those that require minimal material and can be done in any environment.
Coping skills are especially effective when a person encounters either physical or emotional cravings. Coping skills that can assist with cravings include activities like the following.
- Diaphragmatic breathing
- Positive self-talk
- Meditation or prayer
- Listening to music
- Calling a loved one
- Making a mental gratitude list
- Progressive muscle relaxation
Coping strategies can be as unique as the people who implement them, and they are most effective when practiced before a craving strikes. In order to identify the coping skills that work best for you, you’ll need to choose a few to practice on a regular basis, implementing them in small moments of stress. That way, you’ll naturally begin to use them when stronger triggers occur.
How to stop cravings
Dealing with cravings is the ultimate battle of recovery. Urges to return to substance use can have endless causes and learning how to stop cravings in their tracks is possible, but it takes time and energy. Here are a few simple steps to mitigating potential opportunities for relapse.
1. Identify the source
Cravings tend to have some stimulus, whether it’s environmental or a chemical change in the body. Sometimes, the source of the cravings can be identified, whether it’s driving by a bar or hearing a song you used to play when you were high.
2. Identify the physiological symptoms
Each craving, regardless of the cause, has physiological manifestations. You may notice your hands shaking, racing thoughts, sweating, restlessness, tense muscles or an empty feeling in your stomach. These signs can sometimes be pinpointed before we’re cognitively aware that craving is coming on. The sooner you recognize these signs, the sooner you can combat them.
3. Put your craving in its place
When you’re in the throes of an addiction, it’s easy to feel that substance use is controlling your life. If you’re learning how to stop alcohol cravings, regaining control is essential. This requires a mental shift, but when you’re in recovery you’re the master of your own actions. Acknowledge that you have power over your cravings.
4. Use a coping skill
Instead of flocking to substance use when cravings strike, implement a coping strategy. The first few times you do this will be extremely difficult as you’re trying to break a chemically engrained pattern of behavior. Over time, your body will adjust to this new technique and it will work like muscle memory.
Get support with how to stop alcohol cravings and urges to use drugs with Silvermist Recovery. No substance use issue is too far gone for full and meaningful recovery. If you’re ready to break free from addiction and begin your life anew, contact Silvermist Recovery.