AUSTIN (KXAN) — The holiday season is a popular time for many to let loose with family and friends, but for those battling substance use disorder, it can be triggering.
Considering the amount of alcohol at holiday parties, those in early sobriety may feel uncomfortable in some social settings. However, there things you can do to protect yourself or help a loved one who is newly sober said Sarah O’Brien, an addiction specialist with Ark Behavioral Health.
“Have a support system readily available through the phone, whether it’s a text message or a phone call — someone to talk to when things get stressful,” she recommended.
O’Brien also suggested having an exit plan in case things become overwhelming.
“If you’re going to a party, drive yourself. Be able to leave if you are heightened with anxiety or if you’re looking to get out of the situation. It makes it a lot easier than driving with someone else,” O’Brien said.
She also said to hold a non-alcoholic beverage at a party, as most of the time, people aren’t going to ask what you want to drink or be tempted to hand you a cocktail. Don’t feel obligated to attend an event; it’s okay to say ‘no.’
“If you feel as though you can’t attend these parties, that’s okay. Going to a recovery-based meeting or a sober event is just as important, if not a lot safer,” she said.
O’Brien said family and friends can also help, by hosting an entirely sober event or helping to divert the conversation to something else if need be.
“When it comes to family when you’re attending, being respectful of the individual, but also not changing the entire dynamic, if you don’t want to. I’ve seen some families throw sober gatherings. They let everyone know ahead of time. For the most part, most people are very open to it and thoroughly enjoy it,” O’Brien said.
Plus, because this can be a triggering time for people newly sober, O’ Brien said keep a watchful eye for clues that someone might be struggling with their sobriety.
“A change in behavior, from a happy-go-lucky, on-time individual to someone who’s maybe not showing up for events or is late. Disheveled appearance, lashing out a little more, more irritable, discontent. Also, a lack of responsibility when it comes to a job, bills, household chores, things like that that can fall to the wayside.”
Remember, your mental health and safety in sobriety is most important.
“Have recovery-based meetings that you can attend. For the most part on major holidays, they’re run 24 hours a day in person, just so people have a place to go. That’s extremely important. Going on the internet, online meetings. Just having an outlet, going to the gym, going for a walk, taking that time to really and get your mental state right,” O’Brien said.