From planning alcohol-free activities, to simply checking in more often, you don’t need to be a medical professional to offer support to someone struggling with addiction during Christmas.
Planning alcohol-free activities
During this time of year, we are often encouraged to indulge, in fact, 61% of Brits admit to over-indulging on alcohol over Christmas. But for many of us, it can be confusing to draw the line between having fun and going overboard.
Alcohol is one of the biggest temptations around, with many of the social events and celebrations across Christmas and New Year being centred around drinking.
For those struggling with addiction, it may be difficult not to give in to temptation during the festive period, or in other cases, the immense social pressure to join in the drinking could become incredibly stressful and anxiety triggering.
If you are aware that a loved one is struggling from alcohol dependency, the best thing you can do is to remove any temptations from the situation. This can be done by planning activities, or even whole days, that do not involve any form of alcohol.
This could be by switching out popular festive drinks like mulled wine and hot apple cider for the alcohol-free versions, or going one step further and choosing to make an event out of enjoying a delicious cup of hot chocolate with all the toppings.
There are plenty more traditional festive activities to enjoy where alcohol does not enter the equation. You can dedicate evenings to decorating your Christmas tree, or having a Christmas movie marathon or baking and decorating a gingerbread house.
If you have a friend or family member who possesses general addictive tendencies, or struggles with a substance dependency other than alcohol, it may still be worth keeping alcohol intake down to a minimum as it can sometimes act like a gateway. When an individual has consumed a few alcoholic drinks, it can become even more difficult for them to resist the temptation of the particular substance they are addicted to.
If you feel like you do not need to remove alcohol from the equation entirely, try limiting the alcohol intake by only consuming with a meal or having a glass of water or a soft drink in between alcoholic beverages. Be aware of your own and your loved one’s limits too, and call time when too much alcohol has been drunk.
Taking time outs
Whether you’re hosting the Christmas lunch for the whole family or finding yourself with a million and one social obligations, the festive period can feel overwhelming.
This can be especially true for people struggling with addiction, since large gatherings and events where there may be a sense of pressure to have a good time or to ‘fit in’, can be particularly stressful.
Taking time-outs will help to ease the pressure of the occasion, reminding people struggling with addiction and their loved ones alike, that this time of year is supposed to be enjoyable for everyone.
Whenever we begin to feel stressed, or under pressure, it can affect our ability to function. This can be particularly dangerous for anyone struggling with an addiction, who may seek out the substance that they are addicted to, to cope with the heightened feelings of stress.
Taking time-outs will give anyone in the situation an opportunity to calm down, take a breath and remind themselves of the bigger picture – that their recovery process is more important than any Christmas celebrations.
What your time outs look like will depend on the person you are trying to help. Time-outs could be anything from a five-minute breather in a quiet room to spending an entire evening away from the hustle and bustle.
If necessary, try to get everyone involved in any type of ‘time-out’ arrangement, so that the person whose benefit they are for does not feel singled out by the process, as this could leave them feeling even more overwhelmed.
Likewise, it may also be a good idea to pre-organise your time-out system, to let the person who needs it come to terms with the idea and input what would work best for them.
Christmas is often a time where our usual sense of routine is put aside in favour of a different kind of schedule, with many of us looking forward to spending time away from work or school and more time around our family and friends.
However, for some of us, keeping a consistent and well-structured routine in our lives is vital to our physical and mental health. Especially for addicts, for whom a strong sense of routine can be essential to their recovery process.
Recovery is not a linear path, and it is not driven by willpower alone. Quite often, a well-balanced routine is used to help those suffering from addiction map their way back to a healthier lifestyle.
Some of the main factors that cause those suffering to return to the substance they are addicted to, are feelings of boredom, stress and anxiety. An established sense of routine and structure can alleviate these sorts of feelings.
Ways to build up a better routine include improving your sleeping habits by going to bed at a set and reasonable time each night and sleeping for a minimum of eight hours. A well-balanced diet with regular meal times is important too, as is prioritising time for exercise and maintaining hobbies and a healthy social life. Even something as simple as showering at a similar time every morning can help improve a person’s sense of routine.
Factoring in practices like meditation and self-reflection are other great inclusions to the routine of someone recovering from addiction, as these can help the person visualise how well they are progressing on their journey.
When Christmas comes along, all the fun and festivities can interrupt our normal routines. While this will not have a major effect on most people, for those who have built up a strong sense of routine as part of their addiction recovery process, this period has the potential to be incredibly disorientating. If you have a loved one for whom a sense of routine is important, do what you can to help them maintain it during the Christmas period.
Just checking in
Sometimes the easiest things to do in life are the ones that go the furthest in terms of helping others – they can also be the easiest things to forget to do. It might sound overly simple, but just checking in on a loved one who is struggling with addiction can go a very long way to improving their mental health.
No matter how good a person we are at heart, with the time around Christmas and New Year being so busy, it can be easy for any of us to forget to do this simple thing to help another person out.
Whenever someone struggling with addiction is going through a particularly difficult or low patch, it will not be their natural response to ask for help, in fact, they may be more likely to turn back to their addicted substance for comfort than they are to reach out to loved one.
Checking in regularly can help those who are struggling to feel like they are supported and establish you as a person they can turn to in times of need. Even if you consider yourself to fit this role in a person’s life already, it is still on you to keep checking in regularly, to remind that person that your support is always there.
Very rarely will someone who is struggling with addiction expect you to have all the answers, if they are already in a recovery process, they will likely be in touch with medical professionals like a therapist or a support worker. Just simply offering a friendly and familiar face, that is always prepared to listen, can be enough to provide a person going through a low spell with the reassurance they need – especially at Christmas.
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