Many of us look forward to the holiday season. After all, it’s a time to gather and celebrate with family, friends, and coworkers. In the workplace, there is often some type of holiday bash celebrating the year’s end. While these parties can be enjoyable, they may pose risks if you’re in recovery, particularly if you very recently went through treatment. Fortunately, over time you can learn how to manage these situations better so that you can enjoy yourself and protect your newfound sobriety.
When we attend holiday parties or events at work, we may be tempted to use drugs or alcohol again. This is because the environment we spend time in impacts our recovery. Often those environments present triggers. Triggers are external events that cause an internal reaction. While everyone has individual triggers, there are a few that are commonly found at holiday parties.
Increased Presence of Drugs and Alcohol
At holiday parties, alcohol in particular often has a high presence. When you are first coming out of treatment, you most likely avoid being around alcohol. A holiday or work-related party may be the first time you are surrounded by alcohol and by people who are drinking.
The general party atmosphere can also increase the use of drugs. You may have spent time participating in drinking and drug use with coworkers in the past. Thus, attending an event while abstaining can feel very different and requires a different approach.
The holiday season commonly brings with it a high level of stress. Even in your personal life, the pressure to have a perfect celebration, coupled with financial stress and family conflict are common stressors. While attending a celebration with coworkers, personal stressors can create a higher baseline of stress.
Additionally, there are many things about a holiday celebration that are stressful in themselves. Commonly, there is pressure to conform or participate in celebrations in a specific way. This can be stressful if you are recently out of treatment, as you may not know yet how you want to interact and participate in celebrations. Finally, increased levels of noise and socializing at a holiday party can increase tension.
Managing Holiday Triggers
When you are first out of treatment, it can feel overwhelming to manage holiday triggers. However, many methods can help to decrease overall stress and improve your experience at holiday work events.
Being Open With Your Boss
At work and work-related events, being open with your boss can help you to make adjustments that can help. While it can be challenging to speak with your boss about treatment and recovery, it might be worthwhile to consider. In most companies, the boss or managerial staff can make adjustments and accommodations for you at events. These may include some of the following:
- Including non-alcoholic drink options
- Creating an open dialogue about holiday stress and considerations before any events
- Planning a party that focuses on community and engagement rather than a pure party feel
- Having the celebration begin earlier in the day
Your boss or manager may also be able to help you individually. If you speak with them directly, you will be more likely to feel comfortable stepping out during the party or even leaving early. Having your boss in your corner can help you feel more able to make adjustments as needed.
Making a Plan Before Attending a Holiday Event
Before attending a holiday celebration, it is important to have a plan. Each individual will need to consider different options. For most people, two main factors are worth considering: an exit plan and a trigger plan.
Having an exit plan means knowing when to leave. If you have been with your company for many years, you may know, for example, that the celebration kicks up after around 8 pm. Knowing this means you can help protect your sobriety by leaving before this happens. Having an idea of how you will excuse yourself comfortably can help facilitate leaving when it is right for you.
The other important aspect to plan is what you will do if and when you are triggered. While you may not know exactly how you will feel, having some options if you are feeling tempted to use drugs or alcohol can help. Options may include stepping outside to take a short walk, speaking with a trusted coworker or friend for support, or leaving early if needed. Regardless of what you choose, having some options in mind before attending generally helps deal with triggers at that moment.
Bringing a Trusted Partner or Friend
If you are not comfortable and have not spoken to coworkers about your sobriety, bringing along some support is always a great option. This person could be your spouse or a friend who can help support you during the holiday party. Having a support system in place before the event begins can help you to reach out for help as needed. You may even consider speaking with your friend or partner before the party to make a plan together about how they can support you in the moment.
As the holiday season approaches, you are likely to be faced with many events and parties. When you are newly out of treatment, these events can be triggering and stressful. However, there are many ways to manage these events so you can stay sober and still be able to celebrate. Learning the skills to manage these events begins in treatment. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we help working professionals improve their mental health and overcome addiction. We help our clients learn the skills needed to manage their work life while maintaining sobriety. If you are looking for individualized treatment for addiction and mental health, call us today at (949) 426-7962.