The Holidays, Substance Use, and Strategies for Healthier Coping

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As the holiday season approaches, all of the festivities often bring people together for joyous celebrations. After all, the holidays are ‘the most wonderful time of the year,’ right? The truth is, this time of year can also create challenges for those suffering from addiction and substance use disorder.


Research indicates that instances of substance use tend to increase during the holidays, with December and January marked as the most dangerous months for drug-and-alcohol-related deaths. Understanding your triggers, managing social pressures, and getting treatment for underlying mental health disorders can all help you find healthy ways to cope with holiday stress without turning to substances.


Understanding Holiday Stress

Several factors can contribute to increased substance use during the holidays. We’ve discussed the stress of planning and organizing events and how easy it is to fall into a comparison trap. There are also financial pressures and emotional trauma that can make the weight of the season overwhelming. 



To make matters more challenging, the festive atmosphere often involves social gatherings where alcohol and other substances may be readily available, making it difficult for people struggling with addiction. Loneliness and grief can also pop up during the holidays, which intensifies the temptation to turn to substances as a coping mechanism. This emotional strain, coupled with societal expectations of joy and togetherness, can create a perfect storm for increased substance use.



Healthy Coping Strategies

Set Realistic Expectations: 

Manage stress by setting realistic expectations for the holiday season. Understand that perfection is not the goal, and it’s okay to ask for help or delegate tasks.


Stay Connected: 

Combat loneliness by staying connected with friends, family, or support groups. Attend gatherings where the focus is on shared experiences rather than substance use.


Plan Ahead:

If attending events where substances may be present, plan ahead. Bring a friend, establish a support system, and have an exit strategy in place if you feel uncomfortable.


Mindful Drinking: 

If choosing to drink, do so mindfully. Set a limit, pace yourself, and intersperse alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic ones. Remember to eat and stay hydrated.


Explore Alternative Activities: 

Engage in activities that bring joy without the need for substances. This could include volunteering, exploring creative outlets, or participating in outdoor activities.



Self-Care Practices: 

Prioritize self-care by incorporating practices such as meditation, exercise, or journaling into your routine. These activities can help manage stress and promote emotional well-being.


Our IOP For Substance Use Disorder Can Help

Recognizing the challenges that the holiday season can pose, we understand the importance of providing support for those navigating substance use issues. Our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is designed to offer comprehensive care, combining therapy, counseling, and education in a flexible and accessible format.


Imagine fully engaging with your loved ones this holiday season, enjoying your traditions, and reclaiming the life you’ve always desired.


It’s the perfect time of year to rediscover joy and fulfillment in life without the constant need for substances. Our approach goes beyond addressing the symptoms of addiction; we aim to help you heal from the root causes, empowering you to make lasting changes for a healthier and happier future. 



We accept most major insurances and our team will help you start the verification process. Don’t wait for the new year to feel better. We’re to provide the support and guidance you need to overcome substance use disorder to enjoy the holiday season and beyond.