Stressful triggers: Recovering from substance abuse during the holidays


HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- The holidays are a happy time for many people, but they can also be a time of struggle for those in substance abuse recovery.

The average relapse rate for substance use disorders is about 40-60 percent, data shows. The risk can be greater when anxiety levels are high – like during the holiday season.

The founder of a virtual drug recovery program “SoberBuddy” says Christmas can be a tricky time for those in recovery to navigate, especially when access to normal recovery resources is limited.

“On any given year, you have 20 to 22 million people in the united states with a substance use disorder,” says founder of the SoberBuddy App, Tara Schiller.

Schiller says chances are somebody you know this holiday season is battling addiction or is in recovery.

“Addiction affects so much of society and there is a huge need for resources in it, so we just really wanted to be there in that space, helping create solutions for that,” says Tara Schiller.

The holidays are full of triggers, which can cause relapses.

“You have [the way] you celebrated holidays in the past and how you’ve related to holidays in the past,” says Schiller.

“You also have triggers like family dynamics, you could be exposed to trauma, family relationships – or you could have the opposite where you’re not traveling and you’re home and you’re isolated and you feel that extreme in a bigger way because it’s the holidays,” Tara Schiller.

Schiller says if you’re someone who is struggling, you need to have a plan.

“Have a resource you can plug into whether that’s an app or a person you can call. So if you feel triggered or if you feel like you want to drink or use you can have a pre-organized plan,” Tara Schiller.

She says you should be prepared to escape a situation that might be compromising.

“I’m about to use, I’m about to drink…what are you going to do? You can get out of there. Am I going to put it down and leave the party? Am I going to call an Uber? What are the different things I’m going to do should I feel triggered and I’m about to use?” says Tara Schiller.

And for those who don’t struggle with substance abuse, it’s important to support the ones who do.

“Usually it’s not public that they are struggling with it, even if it’s not your issue, if you’re at a party and someone says oh no I’m fine I don’t need a drink, don’t push it on them. Just be like alright cool. Just have an accepting mentality,” says Tara Schiller.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction this holiday season, there are multiple resources available to you here in North Alabama, including Bradford Health Services, New Horizons Recovery Center, and The Alethia House.

Partnership for a Drug-Free Community also has several local resources listed. You can also call a 24/7 national hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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