The holiday season can be a triggering time of year for people in alcohol or drug addiction recovery. Strained relationships, pressures to be jovial and plenty of alcohol can make holiday gatherings a breeding ground for relapse. Sometimes the families of loved ones in alcohol or drug recovery aren’t yet ready to welcome them with open arms.
If you’re debating whether or not to go home for the holidays, ask yourself the following questions to help guide your decision.
Is the Environment Toxic?
Sometimes those closest to us are the ones who’ve caused us the most pain. Abuse by a family member and unhealthy relationships are some of the underlying reasons behind substance abuse. If you’re still processing and coming to terms with a difficult relationship and wounds from the past, think hard about what seeing that individual(s) might mean for you and your recovery.
Do You Have a Support System?
If you’ll be entering a stressful situation, it’s important to have a strong support system in place to help safeguard your sobriety. If you’re traveling, are there friends nearby who can help if you’re struggling? Will texting or calling your therapist, sponsor or peers in recovery be enough support for you? If you do decide to go home, keep a list handy of the locations and times of 12-step groups or other supportive addiction recovery resources in the area.
Where Are You in Your Recovery?
Going home can be difficult no matter how many years of sobriety you have under your belt, but if you’re fresh out of treatment, be extra cautious. Alcohol and drug addiction recovery can be a bit fragile, especially in the early months. You may feel like you’ve got everything under control, but perhaps you’ve been careful to avoid big triggers up to this point. Family has a way of getting under our skin and pushing just the right buttons. No need to expose yourself to the “biggies” just yet if you don’t feel ready.
Relapse rates can be high early on if you don’t take care to protect your sobriety. Here’s a cautionary look at the numbers:
- Research has shown heroin relapse rates as high as 90%, and one study found over half of participants relapsed within one week of treatment.
- 90% of people recovering from alcoholism will relapse at least once over a four-year period, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
- 5% of people recovering from cocaine addiction relapsed within one year, according to a study by the Institute of Behavioral Research at Texas Christian University.
- 71% of marijuana abusers relapsed within three months, according to a study by researchers at the University of Vermont.
- Most meth users relapse within three years, according to a study by researchers at Australian National University in Canberra.
What Does Your Therapist Say?
Talk to your therapist, sponsor or support group about your decision. They can provide an objective opinion as to whether they think you’re ready to face family. They’re likely familiar with the issues you’ve had with loved ones and have a good idea about how steady you’ve been in alcohol and drug recovery.
Were You Invited?
Seems obvious enough, but it’s probably not a great idea to show up as an uninvited and unwanted guest. If your family hasn’t invited you home, give them some space to heal. It takes time to mend the wounds of addiction. Your loved ones may come around, but forcing them to forgive and forget before they feel ready is not a good idea.
Do You Have a Relapse-Prevention Plan?
No matter the time of year, it’s always important to have a strong relapse prevention plan in place. This includes healthy self-care practices you engage in throughout the year, as well as a specific plan for times of high stress and vulnerability. Your relapse prevention plan might include healthy activities like exercise and mindfulness, self-help groups and recovery support meetings; being educated on relapse threats through addiction resources; a list of people to call upon during difficult times like a sponsor, therapist or trusted friends; affirmations and a list of engaging, sober activities.
What Does Your Gut Say?
At the end of the day, you know what’s best for you. If you’re new to recovery and feeling hesitant, check in with that feeling. Visualize yourself at home and what that might look like — the conversations, the rough spots, strained relationships, being around substances. Are you feeling strong enough in your recovery to navigate these challenges and get help if you’re feeling triggered? Take care of yourself this holiday season and do what’s needed to protect your recovery. You worked hard for it.