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Staying sober and supporting loved ones in recovery during the holidays

Experts say finding support and community are key when it comes to being in recovery and getting through the holiday season.

OREGON, USA — The holidays can be a triggering time for people dealing with substance abuse.

“Recovery is an action word… You have to show up for your recovery,” Mike Hovey said.

Mike Hovey is a patient care supervisor at Fora Health, a treatment and recovery center.

“The holidays can be challenging even if you're not in recovery, but if you're in recovery or battling that addiction disease -- it's a season of love and giving and when we have that guilt and shame, that is still right here, vibrant in our minds, and separated from our families, from our kids, from Just the wreckage of our decisions of the past.,” Hovey said.”

From stress, isolation, grief, demands of family and high expectations this time of year can put anyone into a tailspin.

“The holidays bring up things for everyone and we're all triggered regardless of whether you're in recovery or struggling with mental health challenges,” author and mental health speaker Mike Veny said. “There are changes to your routine, holiday parties, family drama, and stress and money. Those things really make it difficult to fully enjoy this time of year and it's one of the reasons we're all very stressed out.”

The holiday season also fills the calendar with events surrounding parties, partying and often alcohol.

“I really feel people is a big piece of it is connection and being community and being part of something and when we go to these places, and there's all this drinking and partying it can be challenging,” Hovey said.

According to the CDC, the most dangerous times of the year for drug-and-alcohol-related deaths are December and January.

“It's important to block out time for your mental health, no matter how busy you are,” Veny said. “For people who are grieving or dealing with loss or anger, it's important to acknowledge your feelings, feel your feelings and know that it's okay.”  

Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. There are steps you can take to stay sober and take care of your mental health this time of year.

  • Limit your triggers: recognize your triggers, try to limit them from stress and triggering environments to avoiding certain people or groups.
  • Set boundaries: know how you’ll decline alcohol or substances and practice how you’ll respond to questions about your recovery that you might not be ready to answer.
  • Event invitations: be intentional about the invitations you accept. It’s okay to say no.
  • Create a plan and take it day by day
  • Engage in healthy self-care: pick up a new healthy activity. Finding a new healthy outlet may help prevent you from falling back into old patterns.
  • Support: find your support system and make time to find a meeting. Reach out to the people in your life who are there to help you through your recovery and find people who can relate to your recovery journey.

If you are in crisis and need someone to talk to right away call the national mental health crisis line at 988.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration also operates a free helpline. You can call them at 1-800-622-4357.

Also, call 211 to connect to other local resources.

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