Addiction: Is it a Disease or a Choice?
The controversy over whether addiction is a disease or a choice is important for those who work with substance abuse and who struggle with addiction.
Can you believe that 2017 has almost come and gone already? This year went by with lightning speed, and we’re already starting the busy holiday season. What does this mean for sobriety? The holidays can bring up a lot for anyone, but especially those of us in recovery. The holidays might remind you of past trauma, family situations or dynamics, drinking trips, or other triggers that could make you think of drinking or using. There are also more parties, get-togethers, and gifts where alcohol may be involved. You already have the tools and skills to stay sober, you just want to keep in mind these 5 things to help you maintain sobriety during the holidays.
You never have to be alone with your feelings. When we get sober, we sometimes think because we’re somewhat “cured,” now that we should keep our feelings in balance and not bother others with our problems. The issue is that nobody is ever “cured,” and addiction can have long-lasting effects. Just because we get sober doesn’t mean we automatically know how to balance our emotions and make the right decision in every situation. It’s important that you share your feelings with people you trust when you are feeling down, when you’re feeling out of balance, or when you’re thinking about drinking. You don’t have to suffer in silence. There are others who’ve been through exactly what you’ve been through, and they can help by listening and offering advice.
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As humans, we always give special emphasis to holidays. It’s a time to hang out with family and friends, cook, eat, and give to the less fortunate. It’s a time when we engage in traditions. There are decorations, presents, and special events. We might receive work bonuses. We might travel. If we look at the big picture, however, the holidays are just like any other day of the year. We get up, we brush our teeth, we eat breakfast, we engage in our recovery routine, and we go to sleep at night. It may be helpful for you to remember that even though the holiday season can feel different, it’s just another part of a regular year. This helps me stay in perspective, especially with my sobriety. I still have to do the things I always do to stay sober, even during the holidays.
As I mentioned, the holidays might bring you back to times during your drinking that aren’t the happiest memories. Maybe, you associate Halloween with binge drinking, or Christmas with mimosas. Maybe, you had an embarrassing experience one year during Thanksgiving dinner. It’s useful to remind yourself often that the past is the past. Although we can use past experiences and memories to illustrate exactly why we’re sober, it doesn’t do us any good to constantly relive the pain of our past. Sobriety is a great time to make new memories during the holidays. It’s a time to correct your behavior and do better. It’s also a time to be gentle with ourselves and realize we are not the things we did in our past. Enjoy this year’s holidays for what they are – new, sober experiences.
This goes for any time in sobriety, but especially around the sobriety during the holidays. If there is a holiday party where people are drinking and it makes you feel comfortable, leave. If your heart isn’t into the work holiday get-together, don’t go. If there is a gift exchange among friends and all they do is drink and/or gift alcohol, don’t participate! In sobriety, we have choices, and it’s your choice to not participate in anything that might make you feel uncomfortable. This includes being around family members or friends who might trigger you in any way or encourage you to drink. Remember, the holidays aren’t a good reason to put yourself in any dangerous or uncomfortable position.
All of these items should be reiterating one important fact: your sobriety should be number one. You might be thinking, well that’s selfish, but in sobriety you have to be. Your sobriety should come before everything, because if you’re not sober you can’t be the best version of yourself. You can’t be responsible, stay out of trouble, and make good decisions in your life without sobriety. The holidays can make us nostalgic. They can make us want to go back to our old life, and that poses a unique threat to sobriety. What we can do is stay aware of this, take actions to keep sobriety as our priority, and safeguard ourselves during the holiday season.
The holidays are quickly approaching, but there is no reason to be nervous or fearful. Treat the holiday season like you do any other day, stay active in your recovery and keep your sobriety toolbox close.
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