The holiday season is a time that is meant to be joyous and shared with family and friends, but the truth is that the holidays can also be a source for stress. Stress is not always bad, but when it is something that drives drug and alcohol abuse, the situation can become dire. Many addicts work on ignoring their addiction during festive times. This results, however, in increased stress as they go into normal situations without the cushioning effects of their chosen drug, and at the end, it can lead to increased drug and alcohol abuse.
Why Are The Holidays So Stressful?
Many people have an idea of the holidays as being a time of joy, and they certainly are. However, the stress that is put on addicts by the holiday season can be immense. For example, if someone has been hiding the fact that they are addicted to a drug, the sudden increase in the number of people around can make things more difficult in that regard. Suddenly, they not only have to hide from people that they are around regularly, they have to hide from people whose patterns they do not know.
On top of that, there is a certain pressure around the holidays to have a perfect family. Even people who are not addicted to drugs or alcohol can feel this way. The television and films out there show us what a happy family is supposed to look like, and most people do not have families who are like that! Reconciling the two can be very difficult and even disturbing.
Because of the festive nature of the holidays, there is also the perception that alcohol must be a part of the celebration. From people who like wine with Thanksgiving to eggnog around the winter holidays, there is a real emphasis on alcohol as a part of the happy times. This is something that can be hard for an addict of any type, even one that is not addicted to alcohol or one that is in recovery. The stress of constantly refusing alcohol is something that does build up, and the stress of feeling as if you are constantly under scrutiny can also contribute.
Also, during the holidays, drinking is normalized to an extent that it is not throughout the rest of the year. People are willing to overlook a bit of over-indulgence, without recognizing that what might look like over-indulgence is actually permission to engage in behaviors that are truly harmful. In addition to this, holiday drinking puts stress on people who have quit drinking because everyone around them is indulging. Where the rest of the year, they might be able to avoid people who are drinking to excess by staying away from bars and parties, suddenly the drinking might come to their homes or the homes of their relatives.
The Holidays and Depression
The holidays are a stressful time both for people who suffer from clinical depression and for people who suffer from situational depression. For someone who suffers from clinical depression, conditions like darkness, increased social demands and a feeling of being empty and tired can be pervasive. After all, the holidays are a busy time, and it becomes that much harder to put self-care requirements into place. For people who suffer from situational depression, say, from the loss of a family member, the holidays can become a time of regret and loss. When someone is lost, whether they have died or are simply absent, the holidays can make their absence even more sharp than it is throughout the rest of the year.
Seeking Coping Mechanisms
For a time that is known for cheer and good will, it becomes astonishingly apparent that stress and trouble can drive people to coping mechanisms, even if they are not necessarily good ones. Good coping mechanisms may have never been taught, or they may simply be too difficult to access at this time of year. Even people who have good coping mechanisms in place may find that they want to fall back on coping mechanisms that no longer work. They may remember previous holidays when they drank, or they may feel some of the same stress that led to their drinking or drug use in the first place.
All in all, it is clear that the holidays can promote a series of thought that are very negative for someone who is vulnerable to chemical abuse.
When you or someone that you care about are dealing with drug abuse, be especially careful around the holidays. This is something that can have far-reaching consequences!