Surviving the Holidays With Substance Use Disorder


Drinking is an integral part of countless holiday traditions in the US, from a wine with dinner on Thanksgiving to whiskey at Christmas and champagne when toasting the new year. Although some individuals drink moderately at festive functions and easily control their urge to drink more, others engage in heavy drinking, leading to substance abuse.

The holiday season can be exhausting and stressful, triggering mental health challenges or bringing along the emotional stress of conflict in the family, trauma, financial concerns, and loneliness. Suppose you are recovering and going through alcohol abuse treatment or struggling with active drug addiction. In that case, you can have a tough time during holidays, especially amidst a global pandemic, which increases the chance of a relapse.


5 Causes of Substance Abuse During the Holiday Season


1. Binge Drinking During Holidays

Increased binge drinking during the holidays increases the risk of physical dependence on alcoholic drinks or withdrawal symptoms. According to the latest statistics from the National Institutes of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Safety Council , nearly a third of 300 deaths due to auto accidents on December 25, 2017, involved a drunk driver.

It is essential to beware of the possible reasons that trigger your urge to drink during the holiday season and explore different coping strategies.


2. Social Isolation

Family members or friends don’t surround everyone during the holiday season. This makes people increasingly depressed. If you feel lonely and socially isolated, you are prone to depression during the holiday season, fueling your substance abuse problems. 

To combat sadness and isolation, try to schedule some social activities in your daily life. Have a cup of coffee, a quick walk, or a phone call with a friend. If you do not have a social circle and feel shy about making new friends, try to get involved with volunteer groups in your community. Or participate in a group meeting at one of your local drugs or alcohol treatment facilities. 


3. Stress and Anxiety

In today’s social media world, where we are bombarded continuously by happy pictures of people doing better, living better, and generally being more successful than us, it is natural to cause peer pressure and make anyone struggling with mental illness or substance use disorders feel anxious and depressed. 

Financial stress is also a significant contributor to anxious feelings during the holidays. Stress is one of the biggest triggers for substance abuse. When you feel slight discomfort, you are automatically inclined to drink and calm your nerves. 


4. Seasonal Affective Disorder or Winter Blues

Do you often feel sad and depressed as winters approach? Well, you are not alone, and this is not just a feeling. There is a scientific reason for your winter blues. Commonly known as SAD, this mood condition occurs during the winter season with limited sunlight exposure. 

This lack of sunlight causes a deficiency of Vitamin D in the body, which may be responsible for many health problems. Fewer daylight hours lead to feelings of dread, anxiety, sadness, and low energy for many individuals.

If you feel that you are suffering from SAD, start sitting in the Sun as much as possible. If you do not have enough daylight available in your town or country, look for light therapy or make an appointment with a therapist specializing in treating this condition.

5. Grief and Loss

The holiday season can often worsen existing struggles with grief and sorrow. If you are going through a breakup or facing some difficulties at work, you may want to indulge in some drinking to find temporary relief. But before you realize it, this can turn into abused drugs. 


Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Opus Health is here to remind you that you do not need to resume drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, or taking prescription drugs, or illicit drugs to make it through this holiday season, but you do need to be prepared! 

Try to find healthy activities that take your focus off of drinking. If you are always thinking about the next drink, you are naturally prone to get into substance abuse. But if you have several things in your hand, you will have a busy mind involved in health activities rather than destructive behaviors.

If you feel like drinking, talk to someone sober around and ask them for help. Remember, there is no shame in seeking help. Practice the following coping mechanisms to avoid getting trapped in the vicious cycle of substance abuse:

  • Make a budget and follow it strictly to avoid financial stress.
  • Recognize your triggers and then try to limit them 
  • Set healthy boundaries on your time, and don’t be afraid to turn down obligations
  • Practice healthy habits. Eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and get adequate sleep.
  • Make time every day for yourself.
  • Seek out community through a hobby or volunteer groups.
  • Practice mindfulness or other meditation

This holiday season, focus on self-care and if it feels too overwhelming, remember that help is just a phone call away. Opus Health offers substance abuse counseling and substance abuse treatment options in Costa Mesa. Our treatment programs can help you recover from addiction and prevent a relapse. Get in touch with us for a consultation session.

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