There’s difficulty in a woman entering treatment for substance use disorder during the holidays because of the role the woman plays in the family. She is the host and the nurturer. She is making sure the children all have presents, and everything they need for school during finals. She may be preparing the meals for the potluck for her and/or her husband’s holiday work functions. She holds the emotional containment of the family.
There’s high pressure to provide and support all the members of the family and as a result, they can feel overwhelmed and isolated, especially women who are bordering on a substance use issue. Holiday stress can trigger women on the edge into a full substance use disorder or alcoholism, whereas they’ve been managing throughout the rest of the year. Increased socialization with other people including drinking i.e. BUNCO groups lovingly nicknamed “Drunko”, book clubs, school functions, and other social circles that emphasize drinking. During the holidays, these events and their impact are magnified.
During the Holidays there’s high pressure to support the family.
Women may be first time empty nesters, and miss their children. If they have suffered from substance use disorder in the past and are estranged from their children, they can feel shame and guilt which can lead to relapse. Depending on their stage of life, there are hormonal variances that can cause depression, when going through peri-menopause or menopause which causes havoc on their physical bodies.
Here are three tips from our Chief Clinical Officer, Gina Tabrizy, M.S., LMFT.
- Lean on friendships and family that you do feel supported by. Sometimes just speaking the truth about how you’re struggling alleviates shame around the struggle. You could say “I’m isolating and drinking more because I’m stressed out. I need help with X, Y, and Z.” Identifying and sharing that with a loved one takes courage, but can really turn things around.
- Having a group for support that’s not focused on drinking, whether it’s a woman’s support group, a 12 step meeting, yoga class, or running club. These connections with others can be a positive influence.
- Keeping yourself focused on positive influences and affirmations. Filling yourself up with things that enhance your self-esteem, whether that’s listening to inspirational podcasts, going to church or your place of faith, starting the day with affirmations to affirm everything is OK where it is. You’re doing the best you can with what you have. You have worth and value. The mind accepts what we tell it, so when you repeat over and over again, these positive messages become truth which lifts your mood from those dark places.
If you or a loved one is currently struggling with a substance use disorder, there is no better time than the present to ask for help. Oftentimes, people wait until after the holidays to enter treatment however, being safely in treatment during a time where so many risks present themselves is a better option. Here are two testimonials from alumnae who were in treatment during the holidays.
“I had forgot it was the holidays when circumstances came together in such a way that sobriety presented itself as a viable option. Next thing I knew it was Halloween and I was a week sober. Girls with more time than me and a staff member joined me in taking my two year old trick or treating because I couldn’t be trusted to go off campus with her alone yet. A month later it was Thanksgiving, and I stayed on campus. All the other sober women supported me as my ex-husband came to spend some (uncomfortable) time with me and my child. And then Christmas came. I still wasn’t allowed to leave so I let my daughter go spend it with other family members. I was completely devastated but you know what? My therapist spent Christmas with us and everyone stayed sober that day. If I would have been with my family, I wouldn’t have missed Christmas with my two year old, but me or my child could have died during that holiday with all the pills I was popping. My family got to have a nice holiday when I wasn’t stealing their pain medication or drinking their booze behind their backs. Since then I have had the pleasure of being fully present for the holidays for my child, my family and myself. Getting sober at any time of the year is difficult, but one great part of getting sober during the holidays is that I didn’t have to ruin one more holiday. The rest of my holidays since then have been spent happy, joyous, and free without drugs or alcohol. I am grateful that I took this opportunity for healing when it presented itself to me.”” – Shay
“The holidays always left a burning hole in my heart from the disconnection to loved ones and lack of direction and meaning in my life. Many holidays I tried to escape the loneliness by being of service to others, but feelings of isolation and a deep sense of shame stemming from my addiction stripped me of any peace. Stepping into the doors of New Direction for Women right before the holiday season, I began to experience a new freedom from the bondage of addiction that clouded my perception. Although I was celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years in treatment, I was present in my life and no longer felt the desire to escape from reality and be disconnected from loved ones. Family members came by after Thanksgiving dinner to visit and offer support and I felt their love and connection for the first time in years. I learned about my disease and the effects of alcoholism and addressed the pain in my heart that stemmed from years of ignoring its’ existence. After finishing the primary phase of residential treatment, we had 2 weeks to obtain employment and if successful, would be allowed a sleep-over. I hit the pavement and on the 14^th^ day I was hired for a full-time position that guaranteed me the gift of sleeping at my parent’s home Christmas Eve and waking up with my family on Christmas morning, the best gift I could ever ask for.” – Laura