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Alcoholism & Relapse: Abstaining During the Holidays

Because alcoholism has an associative and memory disorder component, family and other social gatherings during the holidays can result in stressors that may lead to relapse. With summer nearly here and holidays such as the 4th of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends on the way, recovering alcoholics may be placed in situations that could pose a real threat to their sobriety. Unfortunately, most people who are in recovery could never be expected to completely avoid gatherings like these. After all, quality time with family and friends is important to a healthy recovery program. Therefore, spending time with family and friends during holidays or other gatherings where alcohol might be involved should be done with a little bit of planning and a lot of assertiveness.

As if being around alcohol isn’t enough of a threat to a person’s recovery, family gatherings and holidays can be stressful. Traveling with pets and children is tough and expensive, planning parties or making arrangements for guests is time-consuming and intensive work, and being around family isn’t always…ideal. Old family feuds, drama between certain family members, or disapproval concerning things that happened in the past are often aired during what would otherwise be harmless social functions. All of this can be extremely stressful, and it’s likely that some of these factors contributed to a person’s alcoholism in the first place.

The real problem with alcohol use during holidays is that people tend to drink regardless of what’s going on: “It’s a wedding – have a drink!” And “It’s a funeral – have a drink.” Therefore, drinking is encouraged whether what’s going on is a negative or positive experience. For people not in recovery this might not pose a problem, but for people who are it can be extremely difficult to engage people in social situations when their solution to everything is to drink.

If you are a recovering alcoholic and you struggle with family gatherings and holidays, you should know that you’re not alone. The following are a few tips to help you better cope with these situations:

*Plan your visit. Having a solid plan can help keep you on track. Following a schedule is useful regardless of whether you’re traveling to or hosting a family or social gathering yourself. Relapse is often an opportunistic beast – meaning that if your schedule doesn’t allow an opportunity to drink, then you won’t slip.

*Have an escape. Sometimes, the simple temptation to drink can just be too much or the stresses of a family gathering too high. Make sure that you have a way to remove yourself from the situation, even if you must excuse yourself with a line that isn’t exactly true. Indicating that you’re just not feeling well is a great way to accomplish this and really isn’t that far from the truth.

*Be assertive. Don’t be afraid to say no to a drink. You shouldn’t have to hide who you are. If you’re amongst family and friends, then everyone present probably already knows you’re in recovery. Any of these people who would seek to break the sanctity of your sobriety do not have your best interests in mind and must be responded to assertively. If that doesn’t work, you can always fall back on your escape plan.

If you’ve recently relapsed as a result of a family gathering or holiday or you fear that you are on the verge of relapse right now, then you need to pick up the phone and call us. We can talk to you about inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment and other options to get you back on track. Day or night, we’re here to help you prevent what could be the worst mistake of your life. Call us now.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More