Winter can be a magical time, but it can also be stressful, especially if you’re trying to get or stay sober. Between the inclement weather, the holiday blues, and the heightened pressure to enjoy “the most wonderful time of the year,” the winter months are filled with some of the toughest obstacles to sobriety.
Understanding the challenges winter poses to your sobriety in advance is the first step to creating a rock solid relapse prevention plan that will see you through to spring.
Today, let’s look at the three biggest obstacles you’ll encounter when you’re getting (or staying!) sober during the winter months.
Sobriety Obstacle #1 — The Holidays
No matter what special days you celebrate (or avoid), you’re sure to run into some challenges around the holiday season.
There’s many possible reasons for this:
- In many families, holidays are rituals centered around drinking
- You may experience peer pressure to drink or use at a family gathering or work party
- Getting together with family—especially dysfunctional family members—can be stressful
- The pressure to “have a good time” at holiday events regardless of your actual feelings is intense
- Grief and loss around missing family members can be especially painful during this time
- Loneliness, anxiety, and depression can peak during these times
- Nosy family members or coworkers might use the holidays as an opportunity to ask uncomfortable or inappropriate questions about your recovery journey
- The financial strain of the holidays might stress you out
- Travelling frustrations like bad traffic, long flights, and flight delays might trigger cravings
You may not relate to every item on this list, so brainstorm what possible holiday scenarios might be especially triggering for you. Once you have a list, brainstorm three possible responses you might have to the situation that don’t involve drugs or alcohol as the solution. Your responses can range from taking a deep breath, to taking a short walk around the block, or even leaving the party early—you get to decide what will work best for you.
Sobriety Obstacle #2 — The Weather
Inclement weather is a serious downer. If you’re living in a part of the country that has severe winter weather, brace yourself for long, dark days and lots of rain or snow. Nasty weather doesn’t just cause you to feel sad, it can also increase feelings of depression and anxiety in people who suffer from those conditions. If you rely on outdoor physical activity as part of your self-care routine, the winter months will also put a damper on your exercise plans. These factors can all have negative effects on your recovery.
If you can, consider taking a trip to a sunny part of the country during the winter months, if only for a short period of time. At Transitions Recovery Program, we host people from all around the country at our addiction treatment center in Southern Florida, where most of us wear short sleeves all year round. If you need treatment during the winter, consider looking into a warm weather destination to give you the feel-good boost you deserve.
If you can’t get to a sunny climate, make a plan for how you’ll keep your spirit up indoors. Make a “rainy day” list of activities you enjoy and make a point to get outside whenever you can—even if it’s cold and not particularly sunny. Avoid isolating yourself if at all possible and stick to a healthy exercise routine, even if it means joining a gym or doing exercise videos at home.
Sobriety Obstacle #3 — Other People
If you’re feeling stressed by the winter holidays and the nasty weather, remember that everyone else around you is experiencing these same adverse conditions, too. Unfortunately, you will probably notice an uptick in “bad behavior” all around you because of this.
That’s why we’re ranking “other people” as the third and final biggest obstacle to getting and staying sober during the winter months.
If your co-worker is short with you or if a fellow driver cuts you off in the pouring rain, remember that this season is very stressful for everyone. You don’t know what’s going on in their lives to make them act that way. Likewise, if family members act out during this time consider that they, too, are under enormous stress. Try your best to not take other people’s bad behavior personally. Now more than ever, do your best to focus on what you can control and forget about the rest.
Need Help Getting Sober This Winter?
We would love to talk to you about how our program might be a great fit for you. Why not give us a call today at 800-626-1980 to learn about what it’s like to get the treatment you deserve this winter in sunny South Florida?