Disappointment in the Holiday: How to Deal with Let Downs Without Substance Abuse

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

eye-263429_640Many aspects of the recovery journey from substance abuse are tedious and painful. Perhaps one of the most difficult parts about recovering from addiction is undoing the many habits and behaviors that have been engrained in you after years of substance abuse.

For example, you may have learned to use drugs as a means of numbing painful situations, cope with anxiety, or “escape” from stressful circumstances. Sobriety is not just merely withstanding from the use of your substance of choice, but learning how to truly live without addiction as a crutch.

However your addiction may have served you, recovery is about re-learning positive and healthy ways for dealing with the ups and downs of life.

The Varied Emotions of the Holidays

A common period of time that sparks many emotions is the holiday season. With all that is involved with holiday celebrations, including family members, friends gathering, food and drinks, relationships, conversations and more, this time of year can be overwhelming for the person in recovery.

Whatever the situation that you might be faced with, the important question to ask yourself is how do you deal with stress, tension, disappointment, etc. without turning back to substance abuse?

The Expectations of the Holidays

hands-269273_640Holidays are often hyped up, partially due to the media and the push for consumerism in general. There is often an underlying belief that the holidays should be a time of “happiness”, elation and delight!

Or even the hope that families might be joined together for a time of peace for celebration and joy. As a recovering addict, you may approach the holiday season with many unspoken expectations.

Perhaps you are hoping to make it through this busy time of year while maintaining your sobriety. Or maybe you simply want to sit down with family members without arguing or disputing. As human beings, we all have expectations and ideologies of how we would like things to unfold.

The trouble with expectations is that there is the possibility of being let down if these standards, hopes, and aspirations go unmet.

Gaining the Right Perspective

As with all things, it is crucial to have a realistic perspective in any given situation. Having hopeful anticipation for the future while maintaining realistic expectations requires a delicate balance.

You want to have a positive outlook on life while also understanding that life is a beautiful mess. For example, you may be hopeful that your family can resolve an ongoing conflict and have a peaceful holiday celebration.

Having these hopes are important, but it is also helpful to understand that a family may need more time and effort to work through a painful situation.

Disappointment Can Happen, and That’s Fine

hand-185176_640No matter the situation you might face, it is good to be aware of times that you may feel let down. Why is this important to your recovery? Experiencing “let downs” can be a common trigger for substance abuse, and you need to know how to cope through these situations without turning back to drugs or alcohol.

Drugs or alcohol may have allowed you to escape a “let down” in the past, or perhaps getting high was a way for you to deal with episodes of depression, sadness, frustration, or anger. In order to maintain your sobriety, this behavior must change for the preservation of your life.

Finding Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Finding an alternate way to cope with lets downs will help you get through the difficult times in your life, whether during the holidays or in any other season. Here are some suggestions that might help you:

  • Fellowship with a close friend or loved one
  • Walk your dog or spend time around a loveable animal
  • Treat yourself to a movie night
  • Indulge in self-care, like a bubble bath or pedicure
  • Take a hike through nature or along a scenic trail
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Try some form of art, like coloring, painting or stenciling
  • Read a book
  • Journal and meditate

While you may not feel the immediate relief you once felt while abusing drugs or alcohol, practice will make it easier to undo your old behaviors and strengthen your positive coping mechanisms. The more you can learn to focus on the positive and treat yourself in a gentle and nurturing way, you will find that your need for drugs or alcohol will be less and less.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How do you handle disappointments during the holidays and other seasons of life without resorting to substance abuse? What hope would you share with other addicts in their recovery journey?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 1st, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com