Substance Use Doesn’t Have to Ruin the Holidays or Their Life When You Know How to Get Help

A crispness fills the air and everyone is hurrying with packages, scurrying to meet friends and family that we may see often or only once a year. Bright lights are dancing on a tree as the smell of cookies baking for Santa fills the air. The packages below the tree branches promise a wondrous Christmas morning to the kids who hover around, shaking a box or two when they can get away with it.

Perhaps your holiday memories are of the glowing light of a menorah, the smell of latkes,  sufganiyot, and a tender brisket, spinning dreidels, gold coins, games, and songs of those 8 days of Hanukkah. You may find the bright colorful candles of the kinara, traditional foods of Jollof rice, catfish, gumbo, collards, or mac and cheese, and the cherished principles of Kwanzaa represent a time to reflect on the blessings of community and spirit.

Of course, the traditional end of the winter holiday season is New Year’s Eve and Day as we say goodbye to the year past and ring in the New Year with noise, glitter, and great cheer. As we sing Auld Lang Syne, kissing and toasting in the New Year, we share the hope of a bright shiny new start while reviewing the highs and lows of the year past.

All these holidays and their traditions can make the dreary days of winter seem more cheerful while helping us remain connected to family and friends. However, if you struggle with drug and alcohol issues, or love someone who does, these traditional celebrations can seem a time of concern.

Celebrations of all sorts are often times of indulgence in special foods and drink, relaxing and partying. People sometimes choose to celebrate the holiday season with more indulgence in alcohol and drug use. We often see loved ones that we only see occasionally or just once a year. Their drinking or drug use may have changed since we last saw them and we wonder what should we do if anything. Sometimes there’s extra pressure to indulge because “it’s the holidays”. Whether it is Aunt Margie encouraging you to try out her special rum laced eggnog or a friend offering to share some pills or other drugs to celebrate the season, there can be more opportunities for drinking and drug use to occur. The holiday season doesn’t have to mean overindulgence in every sense—it’s always a personal choice in what and how much you indulge. You are always in control to choose to abstain, have a drink and stop, or indulge more.

You may worry that adding holiday stress will make matters worse if you or a loved one is already drinking or using to excess. The simple answer is holiday stress will increase substance use only if you believe it will. In other words, if you or your loved one believe holiday stress affects your use, it will. You are in control of your stress level and how you choose to deal with it.

You have a lot more control over situations—including holiday stress, or the lack thereof—than you may have been led to believe. Most people perceive stress as something that happens to them without their consent or control. In fact, the amount of stress you feel in any situation is in direct proportion to what you choose to feel and what you choose to take on. Your control extends beyond stress to your choices to drink, use drugs, and to what degree you will use. You aren’t helpless or without control—even when you think you are out of control.

Perhaps a son or daughter went off to college, left home for the military, or found a job away from home and there’s a change now that they’re back home for the holidays. This transition into adulthood can come with many new experiences—living in new places, meeting new friends, and being exposed to new things. Your son or daughter may seem different from the young adult who left home a few months ago. They may have experimented with drinking or substance use for the first time, have broadened their substance use, or are using to a point where you see the use more frequently. Their choice to use or drink may be starting to affect their education, job, or relationships.

Do you worry that you or someone you love may drink or use drugs to excess while enjoying that holiday cheer? Perhaps your use or your loved one’s use is once in a while but, when they indulge, it always seems to be to excess. Maybe they have had or are starting to have problems with family, school, job or even legally because of their drinking or substance use. Maybe you realize their substance use is more frequent now that they are home for the holidays.

At Saint Jude Retreats, we realize the holidays are a time of joy and celebration for many and a time of anxiety and fear for others who are struggling with substance use. As the New Year approaches and we consider our past year and what we wish to accomplish in the New Year, you or a loved one may be considering a brand new life without substance use ruling your decisions. If you or someone you love is drinking or using excessively and wants to change, there are effective strategies to leave substance use behind in 2016.

We’ve put together this Ebook to help you with some questions you may have including why people drink or use substance to excess, what to do if you or a loved one wants to change, and how to know if the program you are considering has the elements to support you or a loved one to make significant life changes and leave addiction behind permanently. We hope this free Ebook will answer many of your questions however, if you need additional information, or you prefer talking directly and confidentially to our highly trained, compassionate Family Consultants, we are available to all through the holiday season—even Christmas and New Years. May your holidays be a little brighter with the hope of a new addiction-free life in the New Year.