Top 5 Reasons that the Holiday Season is Tough for People with Substance Use Disorder

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Christmas and other holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year, can be challenging for people with addiction and substance use disorders. I put together a list of some of the main reasons for this phenomenon. I personally attended an open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in order to gather more information about people’s feelings on this subject. Some of these reasons could also pose problems for people with other mental health disorders, or anybody really. 

  • Drinking and Drug Use Over the Holidays

At least when it comes to the United States and western culture in general, drinking has become normalized as part of holiday celebrations. I can personally remember always hearing jokes about people drinking to excess over Thanksgiving and Christmas in order to get through the family interactions associated with those holidays. New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest party and drinking nights of the year, if not the biggest, and police report record numbers of drunk drivers in the later hours of New Year’s Eve each year. It stands to reason that people with addiction, especially people with alcoholism, would have issues being around this type of environment. At the meeting I attended, one person brought up the idea of having an escape plan if drinking at holiday gatherings is overwhelming to you and you need to leave and reach a safe place. That plan could simply be a friend or two, their phone numbers, and a restaurant where you can go get coffee and escape the discomfort of other people drinking or using drugs around you. 

  • Being Around Family

This was a hot topic of conversation at the AA meeting I attended to research this article, and families that include many drinkers can also play a large role in number 1 on this list. Many people with substance use disorder, both alcoholism and other addictions, have done things to damage family relationships and trust over the years. Even people who are now long sober can feel uncomfortable being around family who may still have trust issues. Many addicts have stolen from family, broken promises, and told many lies to loved ones, and if Christmas and other holidays are the only time of year when an addict might see those same family members, those scars can cause awkward situations at family events. 

  • Depression Over the Holidays

In other more normal years, the holiday season has historically been a time when depression, anxiety, and even suicide and suicidal ideation are at their highest points of the year. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming for many people over the holidays when everyone else seems to be enjoying quality time with family. This year in particular, those lonely feelings could be a bigger issue for people who might usually enjoy the holidays, as Covid-19 keeps families more separated and reduces the ability to travel and congregate safely. Addiction to drugs and alcohol can also add to feelings of isolation, as people with substance use disorder stay away from disapproving family members. Alcohol and other drugs can also cause depression, so for a variety of reasons, experts are very concerned about people’s wellbeing this Christmas and holiday season.

  • Financial Problems

Research suggested that in May huge numbers of Americans would be unable to make rent payments and other necessary payments, including paying for groceries and clothing for children. Holidays can cause increased financial strain on families, as gatherings cost money, and all parents want to buy presents for children, so they do not feel left out. Families who were already struggling will likely be running into devastating financial pressure over this particular holiday season. We know from years of research that alcohol and drug abuse can increase over the holidays because of these added pressures, and Covid-19 has dramatically worsened all these concerns. Hopefully, people can find ways of coping with pressures, but many people in this country need professional help with substance use disorder. I should note that the best drug rehab in Florida or anywhere else is Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center in Panama City, and calling the number listed on FlaSprings.com will connect you to a counselor who can discuss treatment options for you or a loved one.

  • Decrease in Social Services

Many people will be taking time off over the holidays. Government workers and agencies are even more likely to be off work and closed during Christmas and New Year’s. For people with substance use disorder, addiction, and other mental health and physical health problems, this can mean a reduction in much-needed services. I spoke the other day about some of the best rehabs in Florida having open beds during the holiday season, and that is true. However, while private organizations may have space for patients over the holidays, people who need assistance with Medicare or Medicaid problems, social services, and government-related health care can find it difficult to reach people and help over Christmas and New Year. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of the people reading this. I hope all our articles this year have helped inform many of you during this tough year. Thanks so much.

By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at TACannonWriting@gmail.com)