The Holiday Season: A Time for Temptation

The holidays may be known as the most wonderful time of the year, but they are often fraught with stress and high emotions. For those who are struggling with or recovering from a substance abuse or behavioral disorder, the temptations to fall back into old patterns are stronger than ever during the final months of the year.

From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, social interactions revolve around food and drink. As such, it can be difficult to navigate the waters of the holidays while maintaining a sober, healthy lifestyle.

Eating Disorders and the Holiday Season

For people who are struggling with an eating disorder, there are many reasons that the holidays are difficult to manage. Binge eaters can feel overwhelmed by the ready availability of food and the societal expectation to take part. On the flip side, those with anorexia nervosa often feel pressured to over-indulge.

It can be hard to avoid uncomfortable situations if you are recovering from any of the many eating disorders that face men and women across the country.

Alcohol, Drugs and Holiday Triggers

Nonstop holiday parties are rife with alcohol and temptation. When everyone around you is letting loose, it can be difficult to stay on the straight and narrow; with extra time off work and office get-togethers where even the boss is indulging, staying sober is arguably most difficult this time of year.

In addition to seeing other people having fun, the holidays can trigger stress, loneliness and sadness. Many people have unrealized expectations for the season that can cause resentment and depressive feelings, which may have been self-medicated in the past with alcohol.

Revisiting hometowns and friends’ or relatives’ households can rekindle memories of alcohol or substance abuse. These memories can trigger cravings for just one more drink or hit.

Staying Healthy and Sober During the Holidays

The holidays are meant to be a happy time to spend with family and friends. Regardless of where you are in your recovery, your story doesn’t have to end in relapse. Some of the ways you can ensure your own success during this time include:

  • Recognizing and acknowledging that the coming days might trigger painful memories or exacerbate stress
  • Talking to loved ones ahead of time about your concerns and letting them know how they can help — a little support goes a long way in recovery
  • Minimizing stress as best you can by not hosting a last-minute party or overcommitting your time with old friends at home
  • Taking care of yourself with plenty of sleep, regular exercise and good, healthy food; a strong body will help stave off cravings
  • Focusing some of your holiday time on being around people who support you or who are going through the same thing
  • Redefining what holiday fun looks like and giving yourself something to look forward to

A Reminder to All

Whether you are recovering, still struggling or know someone who is, remember that the holidays are a delicate time. If you or a loved one need help answering any rehab-related questions, contact a treatment provider.

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