December 29, 2016

5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays When You’re Struggling With Addiction.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Nirmala Raniga Founder and Director Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center


The holidays can be a difficult time of year, whether you struggle with addiction or not. For many, holidays mean time with your family of origin, wintry traditions, celebration and gift giving. And while rekindling with your loved ones during Christmas time can be a source of joy and connection, it can also cause pressure, anxiety and stress.

Oftentimes, addiction can be rooted to unresolved issues from childhood, or past traumas, and when these issues of conflict have not been addressed with family, being in presence of loved ones can trigger deep-rooted feelings and subsequently, unhealthy patterns and ways of being.


Your family may be overly judgmental or unsupportive of your individual journey, which can fuel secrecy and shame. For those who don’t have families, the holidays can surface feelings of isolation. These feelings of loneliness and despair can trigger old habits and coping mechanisms, leading to destructive relapses.

To have a leg up on harmful patterns (which have been learned and therefore can be broken), the best prevention is to plan ahead and mentally prepare yourself for all that the holidays can bring. Here are five tips to help you make merry this holiday season.

1. Use Visualization

Visualization and meditation aren’t just for top performing athletes. Mentally rehearsing events before they take place, is proven to positively impact your health and assist in actualizing your desired outcomes. To ensure you stay on track with your prevention plan, before heading to any festive events, take some time to envision the occasion, including your course of action (and managing your reactions) in detail.


Even a few quiet moments of visualization can help you successfully navigate addictive patterns and prevent unwanted stress. To start your visualization process, find a comfortable, supportive stance (sitting or standing) and engage in deep breaths in and out, focusing on the sensation of your breath entering and exiting the body.


Use your whole body and engage all your senses (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory and gustatory) to visualize how your festivities will look and feel. How will you respond to situations that have the potential to be triggering?


Take yourself through the entire occasion and colour it with as much rich imagination as you can. Finish on the experience of how it feels to say “no” to behaviours and patterns that don’t serve your healthy and best self. 


2. Always Plan Ahead

If your goal is balance and sobriety this holiday season, plan ahead to help you in your efforts to be at your healthy best.


Unfortunately, spontaneity and impulsivity do not lend themselves to fighting cravings, self-destructive patterns and behaviours. If you’re attending an event, car pool or arrange a ride to and from the event with a supportive friend.


If addictive substances like alcohol and drugs are going to be present, plan to bring your own favourite healthy foods and drinks instead. Prepare yourself for conversations with family and friends, and if necessary, roleplay your responses to decrease anxiety.


You’re never obligated to share more than you’re comfortable with, so if your addiction issues or recovery arises in conversation, divulge only the information you want to share. Planning ahead is the best preventative measure for unhealthy habits.

3. Be Mindful of Your Triggers

You know yourself best, and being mindful and aware of your triggers can help you manage them to avoid relapsing into destructive behaviours and patterns.


Being surrounded by family has the potential to trigger residual, negative feelings (especially if addictive patterns have not been reconciled with loved ones), which can redirect you back towards unhealthy coping mechanisms.


Before attending any holiday event, think about your triggers. You may even want to journal or make art about your triggers to bring them to light. By identifying your triggers, you can work towards taming addictive tendencies.


If being offered an alcoholic beverage is triggering for you, carry a non-alcoholic beverage, always keep yourself topped up with water, and steer clear of the bar (no matter how inviting it looks).

4. Nourish Your Body

If your blood sugar levels are low, you’re more likely to feel the impacts of seasonal stress. You can’t control stressful situations that may arise, but you can take care of yourself by staying healthily nourished and hydrated.


If you’re hungry, you’re more likely to fall victim to irritability, anxiety and holiday pressures. Before attending festivities, arm yourself with a healthy and nutritious meal.


Foods with naturally occurring, healthy fats and proteins (like avocados, nuts, seeds and whole grains) will satisfy your stomach and keep you feeling fuller longer. Drink water throughout your outings and eat healthy snacks every few hours to help you curb any cravings.


If bypassing substances makes you feel like you’re missing out, treat yourself to something that makes your body feel good, like a fruit infused detox water or celebratory “mocktail”.

5. Utilize Your Support System

Your friends and family can be the supportive pillars that help you in achieving and maintaining your healthy goals.


Holidays are naturally more stressful, and you may need to lean on your support system during this time. By surrounding yourself with positive and loving peers, you can help combat holiday stress and triggers.


Never be ashamed to reach out to those you trust and ask for help. Your loved ones want to see you achieve your goals as much as you do. Keeping quiet about insecurities and fears can further fuel isolation and loneliness, but confiding in and leaning on others, can widen your support circle and increase your chances of having a happy, healthy holiday season.


Find out more about our Chopra Addiction and Wellness center in Vancouver at


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