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Why does it seem that during different seasons – and especially around the holidays – addicts and those that abuse substances such as alcohol or drugs tend to crave and use larger amounts? Casual drinkers imbibe more and alcoholics’ benders stretch longer.
Casual drug users and drug addicts also change their habits depending on the season. So what is it that causes this change?
Seasonal Affective Disorder and Substance Abuse
The habits and moods of people can change throughout the seasons regardless of whether they use drugs and alcohol or not. For the most part, these highs and lows are not extreme and may not be well-recognized by a person or those around them.
When the highs and lows are more extreme, this is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where changes in mood and depressed feelings can occur at the same time every year.
Most often this disorder causes people to become more moody and depressed in the fall and winter months, while mood is elevated in the spring and early summer. Although some individuals experience the opposite timeline: becoming depressed in the spring-summer months while having a more positive mood in the fall-winter months.
Just as depression and anxiety can be caused or worsened by the use of drugs and alcohol, the symptoms of SAD can be increased when you bring alcohol and other substances into the mix.
Increased Alcohol Use During the Holidays
Though alcohol is, in many ways, just as dangerous as or more dangerous than many illicit drugs, it is widely considered socially acceptable. The connection between social functions and alcohol cannot be denied: Family get-togethers, workplace parties, sports events, dinners and even conversations among peers will usually involve celebratory drinks.
During the holidays, there is an increase in the number of and frequency of social functions, so with the established connection between these events and alcohol, it is safe to assume that there will also be an increase in alcohol availability and consumption.
Moderate Drinking and Addiction
Many recovering alcoholics will tell you that moderation is simply not possible when you are addicted to or frequently abuse alcohol.
It is quite common to hear phrases like, “I don’t know when enough is enough,” or, “Once I start drinking, it is hard to stop,” from admitted alcoholics.
Some even go as far as to say that just the thought of having to moderate drinking causes them to drink more out of anxiety or increased cravings.
Moderating drinking is very difficult to do – as is moderating how much food you eat, or your caffeine intake. For many people, stopping altogether or not consuming any amount of alcohol is easier than limiting oneself to just one or two drinks.
During the holidays and in certain seasons where there is increased alcohol use, a person may find himself or herself trying to moderate or failing to moderate one’s own drinking as often.
Increased Drug Use During the Holidays
It might be difficult for someone who doesn’t use drugs to understand, but just as many people use alcohol to celebrate, take the edge off or loosen up, many people use drugs for the same reasons. The one main difference is that drug use is not as socially acceptable as alcohol is, so the drug use is expected to happen when alone, rather than in a group.
Avoiding Addiction Relapse over the Holidays
We have already discussed how difficult it can be for people who are not in recovery to avoid the temptations of alcohol and drugs during the holiday seasons, and those in addiction recovery are bound to face the same hurdles under added pressure.
How can these individuals feel confident going into annual festivities and events and remain sober?
Make a Plan to Avoid Relapse
To avoid relapse, wake up each morning and evaluate what’s going to happen throughout the day. Make a commitment to sobriety each morning. Identify high-risk situations and decide to steer clear.
If you attend an event, take sparkling water or a food that you enjoy so you don’t feel left out. Practice the stress-relief techniques you learned during treatment.
When a Family Member Is Actively Using Drugs and Alcohol
Some families spend the holidays trying to minimize the damage done by individuals struggling with substance abuse. Instead of a picture-perfect holiday, it often turns into a nightmare.
One of the first steps families can take is to have realistic expectations. When planning family gatherings and holiday events, don’t set yourself up for disaster. Plan for what to do if you do find yourself in the situation where a family member begins to drink too much or shows signs of using drugs.
No Spontaneous Interventions or Public Confrontation
All too often, when a family member gets drunk or is on drugs during a holiday event, the knee-jerk reaction is to confront the individual and attack them. Family members may release all of their bottled up feelings that they have kept inside leading up to this day, or feel that it is the best time to start an impromptu intervention.
A successful intervention is all about timing and having a well-laid plan that will urge an individual to seek recovery and give them a clear path to achieving sobriety. It is likely that your family get-together will not provide a safe and non-hostile environment for either of these to happen.
A holiday event is not the correct time for an intervention and vice-versa. If the holiday season is the only time you can get a loved one who is struggling with substance abuse close enough to speak with them about their issues with drugs or alcohol, make sure it is done right.
Search for Professional Guidance
Enlist the help of a professional interventionist to lay the plans for not only how the intervention will be handled, but also to ensure that a plan for getting the individual into recovery is also solidified. This can mean the difference between your loved one leaving the family to continue the addiction and leaving to start a new journey in an addiction treatment program.
Family First Intervention is available before, during and after the holidays for family help, case management, or assistance in getting a loved one into rehab. Contact us today to find out more.