There is strong evidence that the rate of alcohol consumption, drug use and their respective consequences all spike during times of celebration. According to the National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology in Australia, the use of cocaine and ecstasy increased in urban, semirural and vacation areas between December 23 and January 3, while cannabis and methamphetamine use also increased in urban areas specifically. In addition, the most recent data from the National Safety Council reported that an estimated 42 percent of driving-related fatalities at the end of year were the result of drinking.
Joseph Lee, M.D., the medical director for Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s youth services, explained these trends by stating, “For many, the holidays are not a joyous time of the year, but rather a season filled with loneliness, anxiety, self-doubt and unachievable expectations that can result in serious consequences for individuals and families struggling with addiction issues.”
Becoming another statistic does not need to be the fated future for those in recovery. David Sack, M.D., and Sarah Benton both recommend a number of new and sober traditions for individuals to establish some well-needed structure during the holidays:
Treat yourself with travel: For some, visiting relatives can bring on more stress than joy. When one’s current setting is too toxic or unproductive, seeking refuge in a new place is an effective solution. There are also specific sober vacations for people to travel and celebrate in the company of others in recovery. For events like these, it is important to prepare beforehand and schedule one’s time appropriately.
Volunteer your time to others: One of the best ways to put a person’s own journey into perspective is to experience the lives of others in need. By giving back to one’s community, one can experience the support that is necessary to rebuild and redirect. Also, the act of helping people can benefit professional and personal growth.
Celebrate with support: No one knows more about addiction than a fellow, former substance user. Sharing stories about past adversities and achievements with others in similar situations helps everyone understand what they should be grateful for and make more informed decisions. To facilitate this, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hosts recovery events year-round. Even having a sober buddy around can help shield a person from unforeseen temptations.
Continuing through the path of recovery is hopeful for people who stay resilient. An eight-year study of almost 1,200 addicts illustrated that less than half of all individuals who reached a year of sobriety relapsed, while less than 15 percent of those who reached five years resumed their addictive behavior. If you or a loved one is struggling with a life without substance use, contact Sovereign Health through our 24/7 helpline for immediate aid and support.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer