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Support those in recovery during the holidays

Zac Talbott, Guest Commentary • Dec 22, 2019 at 6:15 AM

Each year, we all gather to celebrate the holiday season. While the holidays are certainly a time for joy, for many of us, they may cause an increase in stress and anxiety.

Among people in recovery from opioid and/or other substance use disorders, the holidays can create a series of triggers and risks of relapse. That’s why this holiday season, take note of those around you who have struggled with opioid use disorder or other substance use disorders, and be mindful of how you can support them as they continue their recovery journey.

The holidays are a joyous time to celebrate with friends and family. We often take time off from work, attend large social gatherings, and take a break from our normal routines.

Yet to someone in recovery, a daily routine may be an anchor that helps them maintain their sobriety. That’s why the changing schedules, frequent parties, and social pressures like the increased consumption of alcohol that may come with them can create triggers for people who have struggled with opioid and/or other substance use disorders. Additionally, for some of us, the holidays may bring us down, and data has shown the holidays are particularly hard on people who are at risk of depression.

In East Tennessee, many of us know a family member, friend, neighbor, or colleague who is in recovery from a substance use disorder that may be at risk of a relapse this time of year.

We routinely see stories in the news about the number of people who have suffered an overdose, the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or the amount of times first responders have had to use naloxone to revive a victim of an overdose. We may not even be aware of all the people we know who live under the shadow of a substance use disorder.

For those in recovery, there are some tips that can help you protect your recovery during the holidays.

These include having a sober strategy in place to prevent relapse at upcoming holiday events, being open with your counselor, treatment provider, and/or a friend in recovery about how the holidays may impact your emotions, and being mindful of the substances you are around. Furthermore, it is important to take time for yourself to focus on exercise, nutrition, sleep, and practice self-care. If you’d like to spread holiday cheer by giving back during the holidays, there’s plenty of opportunities to volunteer in your community. Finally, if you feel you need treatment, consider beginning treatment during the holiday season.

For family members of those in recovery, be sure to manage your expectations and know you are not responsible if a person in your life relapses. It’s up to the person in recovery to determine their path. Even better, show your support for family members in recovery that you’re thankful they’re doing well.

We hope you will join with us in spreading the joy of recovery and being mindful of individuals battling substance use disorders this holiday season.

Zac Talbott is ReVIDA Recovery Centers’ chief clinical officer.

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