The Value of Structure During the Holidays for Those in Recovery

Contributor: Options Behavioral Health System clinical team member Erica Smith, MA, NCC

Man diving into a lake who is in RecoveryThe holidays can be an extremely challenging time for individuals who are in the early stages of recovery from an addiction to alcohol. This is a time where many people are enjoying alcoholic beverages at all of the various festivities that are definitive of the holiday season.

For those individuals who have succeeded in confronting their addiction to and dependence on alcohol, it can be very difficult to be surrounded by others who are drinking openly and freely. Additionally, while a joyous time for many, the holidays can also elicit much stress and emotional turmoil, depending upon any number of life’s circumstances.

Many individuals face a great deal of financial stress during the holidays, and the existence of any family strife can be exacerbated during this season.

Dealing with Problems By Using Alcohol

Such circumstances may have, in the past, been dealt with by consuming alcohol as it works to numb the presence of any negative emotions. Once one has overcome the compulsion to use alcohol as this type of numbing agent, the reality of life and the chaos of the holidays can seem overwhelming.

In addition to feelings of stress, is not uncommon for people in recovery to experience feelings of depression and self-pity, as they may struggle to feel like they are a part of the festivities. For these reasons, as well as many others, the holidays can prove to be a very difficult time for one to remain steady on the path of sobriety.

Steps in Recovery to Reduce Risk of Relapse

However, there are some beneficial steps that can be taken in order to help reduce the possibility of relapse. One such step is by setting up a consistent routine for each day; a routine that accounts for any moments when one might feel tempted to drink.

Daily Routines

kids-177431_640The development of daily routines can provide individuals with a much needed sense of stability, structure, familiarity, and comfort. Especially for those individuals who are newly sober, they are likely to be facing countless changes, so any sense of familiarity that they can find may serve to provide a sense of relief.

During the holidays, many people are also faced with a lot of downtime, where they are on vacation from school or work, which can elicit temptations to drink. By having a daily routine in place, any potential for boredom that could possibly bring about urges to drink are eliminated.

Having a Sense of Purpose

Along with promoting a sense of stability, having set routines in place helps to ease feelings of anxiety. Facing each day knowing that one has to try to manage the constant desire to drink can cause excessive amounts of anxiety to develop.

One can easily get lost in that anxiety, allowing it to lead them down the dangerous path to relapse. Having a structured day planned out takes away some of that anxiety by automatically replacing it with plans of things one has to accomplish.

Having a sense of purpose for each day can help manage such anxiety, as well as help erase the desire to use.

Activities to Incorporate in Recovery

So what kinds of things can be incorporated into a daily routine for someone who is in the early stages of recovery, or even for someone who has been sober for some time, yet experiences intense cravings during the holidays?

Simple things such as getting up in the morning at the same time and going to bed at night at the same time can immediately work to produce a sense of predictability. Engaging in daily activities that promote exercise and physical exertion can also help with the maintenance of a daily routine, while also helping to reduce any potential feelings of depression and anxiety.

Local Recovery Support Groups

Man and woman in Recovery holding handsFind local support groups that you can turn to on a regular basis and forego any desire to miss any meetings, as this consistency will actively encourage your ongoing sobriety. Schedule social gatherings ahead of time. By doing so, you are reducing the risk of being placed in unexpected scenarios that could lead to feelings of nervousness or elicit a desire to drink.

Decline spontaneous invitations that may place you in an unfamiliar situation that could likewise bring about urges to consume alcohol. Or, should you decide to attend a spontaneous social gathering, bring a friend or family member with you whom you can trust will help make sure you avoid alcohol.

Making to-do Lists

Make to-do lists of things that you would like to get done around the house as having a list like this will promote feelings of self-worth and provide a sense of satisfaction as you visually see the things that you are accomplishing each day.

No one can deny that, even with the implementation of such routines, remaining sober during the holidays can continue to be challenging. If you find that you or a loved one is struggling with sobriety, it is imperative that treatment is sought.

Re-Engaging in Treatment

waiting-410328_640Even if you have previously engaged in treatment, it may be beneficial to re-engage should you find yourself struggling with the overwhelming urge to drink. There are a variety of treatment options available that can help individuals get through this time while remaining successfully sober.

For those who feel that they need intensive care and monitoring in order to prevent relapse, inpatient treatment may be of the most benefit. By entering into such an environment, individuals are provided with a safe environment where they do not have access to alcohol and where they can be provided with around-the-clock support and encouragement that can help them build the confidence they need to step away from treatment knowing that they are strong enough to successfully navigate the path of lasting sobriety.




About the Author:

“The Value of Structure During the Holidays for Those in Recovery” was written by Options Behavioral Health System clinical team member Erica Smith, MA, NCC. Erica has several years of experience working in the treatment field as a clinical therapist and has her Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling from the American School of Professional Psychology.

Site Description:

Options Behavioral Health System is the premier provider of behavioral healthcare and substance abuse services for adolescents, adults, and seniors in Indianapolis and its surrounding communities.

Offering programming that is tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual who is entrusted into our care, the warm and compassionate staff at Options is devoted to providing treatment that exceeds the standards of excellence with the ultimate goal of helping our patients return to a happy, healthy, and stable life, free from the grips of addiction.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on December 13, 2014
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 6, 2021
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