While the festive season can be a joyous time of gratitude on Thanksgiving, while celebrating Christmas, and while ringing in the New Year, not everyone shares the same experience over the holidays.
If you or a loved one are overcoming opioid abuse this holiday season, the typical traditions this time of year may bring unwanted pain and challenges.
Fortunately, the stress that comes with these holidays doesn’t have to interfere with opioid addiction recovery.
With a few practical addiction management strategies, you can enjoy the festivities of the season without fear of relapse.
1. Medication-Assisted Treatment
Many people in opioid recovery use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help manage the physical symptoms of addiction, such as withdrawal, and improve their mental health.
If you’re not familiar with this type of treatment, MAT combines therapy and medications to ease the stages of opioid withdrawal.
Medications commonly used to treat opioid addiction include:
- buprenorphine (Suboxone)
- naltrexone (Vivitrol)
People already involved with an MAT program can continue to go to individual counseling, peer support groups, therapy with family members, and get medications to manage their withdrawal.
This can help to alleviate some of the psychological and physiological stressors you might face over the holiday season and prevent relapse.
2. Find A Methadone Or Suboxone Clinic
You can find methadone or Suboxone maintenance treatment at numerous clinics throughout the U.S.
Methadone is an opioid agonist, which means it works by acting on opioid receptors in the brain to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Suboxone’s active ingredient is buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist that works similarly to stronger opioids such as heroin, but to a lesser effect.
Many of these treatment centers offer daily or weekly dosing during a range of hours to accommodate their client’s recovery needs.
3. Find A Mobile Methadone Clinic
Opioid treatment services are also administered via mobile clinics, which are vans and vehicles that deliver medications and treatment equipment to at-risk populations throughout the U.S.
These mobile resources are limited but are gaining more regularity among communities with limited availability of life-saving medications and tools for opioid abuse.
In June of 2021, the White House announced its intent to streamline the registration requirements for these mobile opioid treatment programs, meaning there may be more availability moving forward as the New Year begins.
4. Keep A Supply Of Naloxone
When you’re recovering from opioid addiction, it’s always a good idea to have a supply of naloxone (Narcan) on hand if possible.
Naloxone is a life-saving medication that quickly reverses the effects of opioid overdose.
You can keep it at home or bring it with you to holiday parties and other social events to have in case you need it right away.
5. Check In With Your Mental Health
Mental health and drug addiction are deeply intertwined, so it’s important to check in with yourself regularly over the holiday season.
If you’re handling symptoms of both substance use and a mental health disorder with a dual diagnosis, consider ways to manage both disorders during the holiday season.
Here are a few ideas for managing different co-occurring disorders:
- Substance use disorder and depression: Don’t isolate yourself. Spend time with family, sober friends, and reach out to a support system.
- Substance abuse and anxiety: The holidays can be a stressful time full of family gatherings and holiday events. Manage stress with meditation, journaling, and stretching.
- Addiction and PTSD: Avoid any PTSD triggers you may have, such as saying no to gatherings where people associated with previous trauma will be present.
- Drug and alcohol addiction and bipolar disorder: Stabilize your moods with deep breathing and don’t consume foods and drinks with caffeine or high sugar content.
- Drug use and panic disorder: Skip the crowds and enjoy an evening of self-care with non-alcoholic drinks, being sure to take care of your physical and mental health.
6. Determine Your Triggers
The key to managing opioid addiction and mental health over the holidays is recognizing and honoring your triggers.
Triggers are personal and can encompass any number of physical or emotional factors that bring on cravings and lead to relapse.
If you’re aware of them and know how to respond to them if they arise, you can avoid relapse. It’s also helpful to share this knowledge with trusted friends and family members.
If you’ve been to an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program, you may have identified a few of these triggers already. If not, use the list below to help you narrow them down.
Common opioid addiction triggers include:
- spoons, plastic bags, needles, or other items associated with opioid use
- seeing prescription painkiller bottles
- emotionally distressing situations, such as financial stress, arguments, or seeing people connected with past drug use
- old people or places
- seeing people use drugs or drink alcoholic beverages
7. Try Different Therapy Techniques
Many rehab facilities use a range of therapies to address drug and alcohol abuse, such as holistic therapy, alternative therapy, and behavioral therapy.
If you’ve done a traditional therapy program, you may have experienced behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, or trauma-informed therapy.
Use ideas from these methods, such as cognitive reframing, to manage stress and address negative emotions.
You can also try holistic and alternative therapies, such as:
- body-focused therapies: This may include acupuncture, massage therapy, and meditation.
- animal therapy: Spend time with your family pet, go to your local animal shelter, or find a pet-friendly addiction treatment center.
- plant-based therapy: Grow a small garden or keep house plants to cope with symptoms of substance abuse and mental illness.
- mindfulness: This technique encourages you to be present in your body and use your senses to ground yourself in reality.
- music therapy: You can use music to address physical and mental issues, reduce stress, and improve self-expression.
8. Go To An Opioid Addiction Recovery Group
The best way to recover is to be in the company of others who understand what it’s like to have an addiction.
You can find many different types of recovery support groups in the U.S., including faith-based and science-based options.
A few options to look into include:
- 12-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- SMART Recovery groups
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety
- Women for Sobriety
During stressful times such as the holidays, it’s helpful to be surrounded by peers who can encourage you and share their experiences with you.
9. Enter A Detox Program
It’s not the safest option to detox from opioids during active addiction and in the stages of early recovery while at home or without support.
A staff of medical professionals, nurses, and addiction treatment providers can help you to come off opioids safely in a short-term detox program.
Once your body is free from chemicals and stable enough to return home for the holidays, you can work through a few of the opioid management strategies above to maintain that sobriety.
10. Create Sober Alternatives
People recovering from opioid addiction may find it difficult to be around drug or alcohol use, as this can trigger a relapse.
If you’re hosting a holiday celebration this year, try putting on your own sober event and invite people who will respect your desire to refrain from drinking, smoking, or using drugs.
For events you’ll be attending that you can’t control, bring an alcohol-free drink, have a sober buddy you can spend time with, and create an exit strategy in case the situation becomes a danger to your sobriety.
Resources For People Recovering From Opioid Addiction And Their Loved Ones
As you navigate holiday stress and recover from drug addiction this time of the year, use the resources below to help you find a better way to spend the season and prevent relapse.
Peer support groups:
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- SMART Recovery
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety
- Women for Sobriety
- Town & Country: The 27 Best Recipes for Mocktails
- Insider: 16 Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks to Buy in 2021
- The Good Trade: 99 Sober Activities To Do This Weekend Instead Of Drinking
Locating opioid treatment:
- methadone clinic directory
- Suboxone clinic directory
- Narcan.com: Get NARCAN® (naloxone) Nasal Spray
- U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services: How to Find Opioid Treatment Programs?
Get Treatment For Opioid Addiction
When holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Eve roll around, people in recovery from opioid addiction can find it difficult to manage the symptoms of substance use and mental conditions.
But help is available at a number of treatment centers in the U.S. To learn more about your options for recovery this holiday season, call our helpline today.