The most wonderful time of the year? For most people, the holidays are stressful times filled with expectations, parties, and spending large amounts of money. However, for those who are struggling with addiction, the holidays can become an even more stressful time.
Robert Castan and Janice Fulkerson from Northpoint Recovery spoke with Gemma Gaudette from Idaho Matters. They went over how to manage the stress of the holidays while dealing with addiction.
You’ve probably heard people say that addiction is a disease. It’s possible that when you first heard that, you laughed it off in disbelief. After all, how could something that someone chose to do that ended up hurting them be a disease? There have been many studies done on addiction in the past, and they all support the idea that addiction truly is a disease.
Addiction occurs when someone consumes a substance or engages in an activity repeatedly despite negative consequences. The substance or activity produces pleasurable sensations for the individual in the beginning; however, eventually, it becomes compulsive and the person is unable to stop. This is problematic because of how it interferes with the individual’s life in every way:
When someone suffers from an addiction, they are usually not aware of how out of control their life is. In fact, people can remain in denial for years, assuring everyone around them that they’re in control.
When someone has an addiction, there are dramatic changes that take place in the brain. These changes occur regardless of the type of addiction the individual has. They usually refer to increased levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These chemicals are responsible for helping people feel good and experience security. When addictions are present, the substance or behavior becomes responsible for making these chemicals. The brain no longer makes them on its own.
Robert and Janice shared why the holidays can trigger an increase in substance abuse for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons are:
- Pressure to be around family. Many times family can be our harshest critics bringing up flaws or creating unrealistic expectations. The holidays bring these thoughts and feelings to the forefront causing addicts to feel even more shame and guilt.
- Social situations different from normal routine. A change from a normal routine can leave an uneasy feeling regardless of how minor the change. The holidays bring several changes to our normal routine from late work parties to scrambling for gifts. These changes in our normal routine can easily trigger a recovering addict.
- Spending large amounts of money. Based on the unrealistic expectations and/or pressure placed upon us most people overspend during the holiday season. Between having to purchase gifts, food, and travel expenses many people stress over the amounts of money being spent and how to recoup that money.
Breaking the Cycle
This holiday season, the main message Northpoint Recovery wants to share is how to assist those who are still fighting their addiction battle. Watch your loved ones and check the signs and symptoms of addiction: isolation, physically look impaired and difficulty maintaining a conversation. If you suspect someone you care for is suffering from substance abuse disorder the best way you can assist them is to let them know you are available, you love them and there is hope. Many times letting the addict know you are there to support them and not criticize may be enough for them.
Additionally, with the family together make sure to plan events so everyone is staying busy. Take a walk to view the lights, go caroling, or check out local events. This can help prevent uncomfortable discussions about the addiction. Lastly, cherish the times together and be kind to one another. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, eat well, exercise, and maintain hope to make it through the holidays with sobriety intact.