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8 Effective Tips for Coping with Addiction Triggers Over the Holidays

For anyone recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, the holiday season can be especially challenging. Drink-filled holiday celebrations, crowded stores, family conflicts, and disrupted schedules can all trigger addictive behavior. How can you cope with these holiday addiction triggers—and come out of the holiday season as strong as possible?

Although holidays can be stressful, here are eight tips that can help you best cope with these and other holiday addiction triggers:

  1. Know your triggers. It's important that you know what activities can trigger your own addictive behavior. Every person is unique and everyone has different triggers that can cause one to crave drugs or alcohol. Think about the situations, people, and things that have tempted you previously so you can recognize those triggers and either avoid or try to manage them when they appear.
  2. You don’t have to go. It's likely that you'll be invited to lots of parties and events during the holidays, some of which may be triggering to you. Don't place yourself in tempting situations; it's okay to turn down these invitations.
  3. Have a plan. If you do choose to attend an event where alcohol and/or drugs will be present, you need to have a plan on how to cope with that. Think about asking a sobriety friend to accompany you to the event, or simply limit your time there by leaving early.
  4. Practice saying no. If you are offered alcohol or drugs at a party or event, learn how to say “no.” (Or, to be more polite, “no, thank you.”) Set your boundaries and rehearse how best to decline those substances you should be declining. You should also practice how to respond when people ask you how your recovery is going, especially if you’re not really ready to talk about it yet.
  5. Get support when you’re traveling. If you’re traveling over the holidays, do your homework and find out what support (groups, programs, counselors) are available where you’ll be staying. Just because you’ll be away from home doesn’t mean you have to go without the support you need.
  6. Don't overdo it. Excess holiday-related activity can exacerbate the chronic pain that can lead to substance abuse. Limit physically challenging activities, avoid crowded stores with long lines, and don't be afraid to ask for a chair at that holiday party. Do whatever you can to keep your pain in check so you won't need additional medication.
  7. Pay attention to your emotions. Paying attention to your emotions during the holidays is critical. Holidays can bring out all sorts of emotions, good and bad, and emotional triggers are part of the cycle of addiction. Make a point to stay in touch with your emotions and, if negative emotions become overwhelming, call a sober friend or family member to talk it out.
  8. Be of service. One of the best ways to stay sober during the holidays is to volunteer your time to helping others. Volunteer at a food shelf, serve a meal at a homeless shelter, join a group caroling at a senior center—there are tons of ways to be of service over the holidays. When you concentrate on serving others you’re putting your problems in the background—and doing good, too.

Most important, even though the holidays can be hyper hectic, you need to make time for yourself. Schedule some "me" time, practice proper nutrition, exercise regularly, and get plenty of restorative sleep. The better you feel physically, the stronger you'll be emotionally—and the better prepared you'll be to deal with any holiday addiction triggers that present themselves.

Michael Miller Michael Miller Michael Miller is a Business Process Writer at Valley Medical and Wellness. He's an established writer with more than 200 books and thousands of articles published over the past three decades. He writes on a variety of topics, from healthcare to technology to music. He is also a member of the Interstellar Foundation, dedicated to telling the story of humankind via NASA spacecraft traveling beyond the solar system.

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