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Navigating Addiction During the Holidays

How to navigate holiday stress when there are addiction issues. Holidays can be harder. They can be harder when you have an addiction and EVEN harder during a pandemic. Laila gives strategies on how to cope with Holiday stress.

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Video Transcript

Laurie: All right, so we are going live. My name's Laurie Groh. I'm co-owner at Shoreside Therapies, I'm here with Laila Wiechmann, and we are going to talk a little bit about how to navigate addiction through the holidays. So one of the main questions I think that a lot of people wonder, is: if you are struggling with addiction and you're entering the holiday season, what are some of the stressors you see come up for clients?

Laila: Right now there are a lot of starters. Holidays seem to make the percentages go up. During the holidays, one of the stressors is like just over-commitment. Say you're married, you've got her parents, you've got your parents, you've got the kids and you're driving around, they're now a lot of stress that way and even travelling. Say it starts snowing and you start worrying about it. You just get really stressed about things like that. I think fatigue is a big one too. Again, over-commitment and eating turkey with the.. what is it called? The thing that makes you tired. Then there's the big one of COVID. Some people aren't able to get together with a family this year because of restrictions and you know that's a big stressor for a lot of people.

Laurie: Oh yeah, yeah, so can I pause on that for a moment because that is obviously the topic right now, of, what are people going to do, and one of the things with a diction that we know is that the isolation is a big component of it, and so I know we're going to talk a little bit about what can some people do for that in a little bit, but so what are some of your thoughts on that isolation piece? How's it coming up for people? What are some of the concerns?

Laila: Yes. I think when you're home alone or even with, you know, with family. Obviously the stress one of you know a lot of people that do participate in meetings. You know they are able to do Zoom meetings, so they are able to do that and have some type of conversation, even if it is over the computer, using the phone, calling people. That's what the phone list is for: calling different people and just keeping yourself active in whatever way that might be. Say, I'll help in the kitchen, even if you can't cook it all, but really keeping busy. When we have idle time, that's when it gets bad. So just trying to stay busy, play with the kids, go for a walk, something like that.

Laurie: So finding ways to connect, even if it might not be your first top choice of maybe in the kitchen or playing with kids or even just going out for a minute during the holidays, and then, if you are, you're not able to be with your family, choosing the ways that we all know is not quite the same, but they can also be really useful, like going to a Zoom AA meeting or talking with friends, people that can be really supportive and know what you're going through.

Laila: And there are some and it's different for each location where you live with the laws and such. But there are things such as over the holidays, I know over Thanksgiving and I think, Christmas and New Year there are things.. there's one thing called an Alcothon, where they have meetings for two days, every hour on the hour at a location and I don't know with the virus, don't know if that's going to be changed. But that's something to look into. Just go to like an Alano club or an A club, and they usually have something like that. I'm sure there's a mask and distance thing. I'm sure now it's pretty vital for who are whoever, addicts or alcoholics

Laurie: Right and that is the main thing with the pandemic that is really challenging, because that's the thing that can help people the most and it's the thing that's been taken away. Yeah, but yes, I mean being safe and having a mask. And you know, I'm sure that there are places where it's outside. I mean it's still pretty, it's doable in Wisconsin right now. It's you know, a lot of hats and mittens and things, but still do-able to be outside and keeping your distance. So what we could probably do is maybe list some resources. At the end I can list some resources for people, of meetings and checking in, but checking in general with your local AA group that you might already be, you know, involved in and see if there's an online version. A lot of times people are nervous with the zoom meetings of doing AA, but the people that I work with that actually have done that have said the Zoom meetings are great. It's actually kind of better in a way because you don't have any excuses of like the drive time and I mean there's technology excuses, but that there there's a lot less reasons not to go once you try it, once you realize that it's not as bad as I thought.

Laila: I totally agree.

Laurie: Yeah, so let's get back to some of the other stressors that somebody that's facing addiction might have during the holiday season. So we talked a little bit about the overcommitment, that's something that comes up doing, too much and fatigue. Are there any other ones that you notice?

Laila: I think kind of what goes along with what we were just talking about is being away from your recovery group. A lot of people have a very set schedule: how many meetings they go to, which ones they go to, what time they go to and then suddenly their schedule changes. So being away from their immediate group, I think that's a stressor for some people and I think the other.. this is kind of going back into our, our childhood and such. But we have a lot of memories, I think, and they're brought up in the holidays and I think a lot of childhood memories kind of start rolling around in our heads and expectations of how things should have been or could have been, and so that's another stressor that I think that is very dangerous for some people.

Laurie: Yeah, yeah, and you know, with the holidays, like any memory, they just stand out more for people in general. So whatever happens on Christmas day, you know there is this backdrop of Christmas and I'll stay in your memory along with you know whether they're positive memories or negative memories. And you know we're all human. So I'm pretty sure that there's going to be some negative ones in there, that that are worth kind of talking about, talking through, and that'd be a good reason for somebody to come and talk to you right, like to talk about some of those experiences, how to heal from them, how to move on from them, how not to just dismiss them as well? Right, like how to actually go through and acknowledge what has happened.

Laila: Of bearing them and resentful about them.

Laurie: Any other stressors?

Laila: Those pretty much are all wrapped into fatigue, etc. Yeah, pretty much just everything with the holidays.

Laurie: Yeah, and I know too, with overscheduling right, that's definitely a big one, especially if you have to meet with all sorts of different families now. That's going to probably be decreased, hopefully, be decreased this year, but it's also probably going to create a lot of sadness, and you know some other emotions that come up with that as well of not being able to see your loved ones during this time.

Laila: I kind of see that it's an opportunity for you know, if maybe you didn't have the best holidays, you don't have the best memories. This is an opportunity to change that you know make your own traditions at your home and turn it into a positive instead of a negative. You got to look at the good side.

Laurie: I agree with you on that. I agree with you on that. You know, just kind of thinking about all the stuff I'm going to have to make this year.. not the positive, but the positive is: I get to choose. I got to choose what I'm making, so that's kind of nice, yeah, so, why don't you tell me maybe some strategies that you have in mind for some of the stressors.

Laila: I think... say the day of, say Thanksgiving, and you have to be at, you know, one house at noon and one house in the evening. I would definitely say: go to a meeting that morning, or even a Zoom meeting. Whichever you you can do, but go to a meeting. Try to stick as much to a schedule when it comes to your meetings as you can. I think, also go to a meeting the next day or even that night, if you can. Also, carry your phone numbers with you. I know we all have them in our phones, but usually, we have phone numbers. If you start feeling antsy, resentful, and angry while you're out at somebody's house, have that phone number, just excuse yourself! Just say listen, I just need to make a real quick phone call just to have somebody who knows what you're going through and who feels the same way that you do will help you ease that stress a lot, then drive yourself if you can. Never go alone to an event that there's going to be stress at, because if you get really overwhelmed you can always leave. You always have an exit plan. Now you're not dependent on another person. Then there's no 'oh no, give me another hour or whatever and you're just chopping at the bit. It's really important that you have that and thank God we've got Uber and Lyft now that that does add to our arsenal there. So definitely those are some things that I would have you know, talk to your family, or your spouse, that you're going with or whoever you're going with and say: listen, this is going to be really difficult for me. If I give you a signal that it's time to leave, let's go. People think it's selfish, but I call it self-care. Taking care of yourself and your sobriety.

Laurie: Right, I think that's a good point of like reframing what that actually is and what that means, taking separate cars too. Couples can do that. That's totally OK.

Laila: Exactly you know, like I said, Lyft and Uber have really helped in that scenario. Another thing would be, you know, adjusting your attitude when it's kind of like you're going into it and you're going into this event with the same attitude that you did when you were a child. Or, like you said before, if it was a good time or a bad time, you know that stick in your mind. Kind of go, this is a new day. One of the AA slogans is one day at a time. And I'm just going to go in with a positive attitude and just do my best, whatever that may be, and I think that can really help a person instead of going in with like a negative, this is going to be the same as last year.

Laurie: Right, right, so not priming right like the priming piece, gets us in a state where we're feeling the emotions that haven't even happened yet and we're predicting that we're going to feel this way, taking a moment and saying I'm not going to do that this time. I'm going to go in and just be in the present moment, using those strategies we started to talk about already, of you can leave if you need to, you can call a friend or text a friend or another family member, somebody that you trust or your sponsor, and just having that plan so that you know I can do this if this happens, I feel like that just gives us a lot more control and a lot more power in the situation that we might not feel we have in those social gatherings.

Laila: Exactly exactly, and I think another one that we could talk about is being of service, meaning it's really difficult that first-year recovery. Very vulnerable to relapse, extremely vulnerable and you believe that you know I'm not going to. I can't go to a house where I know they're going to be serving alcohol or I'm going to want to go use my drug before I go because I can't handle it emotionally. You know you don't have to go and with your time you could go serve at a soup kitchen, go help a neighbor who's an elderly neighbor, decide that you're going to chair a zoom meeting, you do something to get out of your mindset, out of your problems, out of your negativity, and usually, when you're thinking of other people, you're not thinking of yourself. So really it's if you really really don't think you can do it and don't feel bad that you can't there are going to be a lot more Christmases and a lot more Thanksgivings. This is your life, this is your life you're talking about and if you miss one. So be it!

Laurie: Yeah, yeah, and we have a built-in excuse, the pandemic. So there's that right, there's that. But you know to to your point about kind of serving others. There's a lot of different ways people can do that right now where you aren't feeling, you know, comfortable serving at a soup kitchen or serving in that way. There's a lot of places you can make a meal and drop off, or buy turkeys and drop those off. I know that's definitely something you can do and there's still time to do that, so that would be another thing that someone could do to get out of themselves for a moment.

Laila: Exactly.

Laurie: Yeah, and at the same time putting your sobriety first, that always has to come first right.

Laila: It always does, because everything else will fall apart if you don't put that first. And kind of expand the area that we're talking about. You know what about the holiday parties with your, with your job? You know just cocktail parties that you're invited to for the holidays. You know there's a lot of those during this time and if you have to go to your office party, well, like you said, there's the COVID and you can say: well, you know I don't feel comfortable or you make a very quick appearance or you don't go at all. You know there are certain situations that you know that you cannot be in. So just don't go or you go to your, your family's house and Aunt June says: Oh, how was rehab? And then you're like oh great. So you can just avoid that person. You can just walk out of the room or your uncle Bill, who wants to pour you a stiff drink. Avoid him! You know like we said before, it's self-care, self-preservation at that point and there's nothing wrong with that and we don't always have to please everybody else.

Laila: Right right! And that's what gets.. I think that's what causes problems for a lot of us. It's not a bad thing to think about other people. It's just when we put their needs in front of ours or make their needs more important than ours, is where things tend to fall apart.

Laila: Right right, that's and I think the last point is self-care. You know, make sure that you're sleeping well and you're eating and exercising, and I think sometimes people let themselves get run down and they're isolated, depression sinks in, and it just gets worse and worse. So really being good to yourself, and doing what you enjoy doing and you know, like you said, you don't have to please others, you just have to get through this holiday season sober.

Laurie: 100% all right, so thank you for all those suggestions. So now, Laila, I want to ask a little bit about, you're offering a free group, so would you mind sharing just a couple of things about that about the new group?

Laila: Sure, it's it's a five-week course, meetings once a week. It will be for one hour free and we'll be discussing How can we stop addiction in ourselves? What is it? A lot of people don't even know what it is. You know. Is it a disease? Is it a moral defect? What is it? What strategies are there? What can we do to stop the relapse? So we cover all of the things, the basics of addiction. And it's geared towards not only people who know currently struggle with the addiction, but people who might think there might be something going on. And it's really important also for family of the addicted person, because oftentimes family doesn't even know what addiction is. They're like 'just stop'.

Laurie: Yeah, or 'slow down'.

Laila: Or slow down, yeah, just switch to some other chemical versus what you're doing now, and you'll be better. So it really does give you all of the basic information that people need to understand what is addiction? How can we stop it?

Laurie: Yes, I think that's going to be great.

Laila: Yes, absolutely.

Laurie: So it's five weeks, hour-long meetings, and it's free. That's even better!

Laila: Yes, it's free! And you just contact me you know you can email me, text me, call me and I'll give you more information about it.

Laurie: Thanks again, Laila, and have a good holiday.

Laila: Thank you, you too.

Laurie: Thanks.

Laila: Bye!


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