By: Jaime W. Vinck, MC, LPC, NCC, Chief Clinical Officer for Sierra Tucson
Addiction can threaten the lives of people via many different avenues: recreational drugs, painkillers, alcohol, food, and more. While many of us grow excited about the upcoming holiday season and the celebrations and traditions that will consume us, there are others that become anxious and uneasy about having to face this time of year. The events of the season can impose temptations and challenges for recovering addicts, especially those with co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, and codependency, which can be heightened by the festivities that surround them.
During this holiday season, let us be mindful of all of these people and the addictions they battle against. Whether you know somebody who is still battling an addiction or somebody that is in recovery, make the effort to be considerate of what they are going through. It is important to remember that those in recovery are indeed still struggling too. So, what can we do to support our friends or family members in the fight against addiction during the holidays?
It is not uncommon for addicts to experience feelings of loneliness due to broken relationships at this time when families get together to share joy and cheer. Even recovering addicts can feel a great sense of insecurity when coming together with family or friends that they have not seen since maybe the last holiday gathering. These times can present anxiety and tension. Showing love, care and concern during this intense time can make a huge difference to somebody battling these feelings.
Support is an essential element of the recovery process. It is important to make sure that your recovering loved one feels supported in their fight toward recovery. Show him or her that you are proud of them and happy to have them healthy and present at holiday gatherings. Efforts to make them feel more than just physically present, but rather mentally and emotionally present can help to avoid feelings of insecurity, shame or being outcast, as these negative feelings may pull the trigger on regression, especially for recovering drug users who may feel the need to escape.
To make matters worse, thanks, joy and cheer are usually celebrated over alcoholic libations, which present the threat of temptation to a recovering alcohol abuser. Giving thanks for the family and friends you are surrounded by holds a lot more weight than the spiked eggnog. Try to keep the alcohol availability to a limit and provide other non-alcoholic drinks for everybody to enjoy. Hot apple cider, non-alcoholic eggnog, maybe even a specialty coffee bar, will bring fun and delicious alternatives.
For loved ones struggling with an eating disorder, be considerate to the challenges that will face them at this time of year, which is greatly defined by the grand feasts that encompass our celebrations. This can be a time of overindulgent eating for all of us. So, it isn’t hard to imagine the challenge it can pose to an individual recovering from binge eating or compulsive overeating. To help decrease the temptation, this might be the year to slim down the selection on the buffet or maybe serve pre-plated dinners. Holiday meals may tend to be high in fat, sugar and caloric intake. This can create anxiety for a person who is highly concerned about their body image and the foods that they consume. Be mindful of this by offering a selection of healthier foods such as vegetables, fruits and lean protein options.
Whether a drug, alcohol, food or other addiction, a person recovering from such will need extra support during the holiday season. Try to be mindful of the unique struggles associated with your loved one’s individual addiction by offering support. It will make a difference that could positively impact the New Year for them, possibly their entire future. Healthy Holidays!
Jaime Vinck, MC, LPC, NCC
Chief Clinical Officer, Sierra Tucson
Jaime Vinck joined Sierra Tucson in August 2014 as Chief Clinical Officer. She oversees the overall program design and provisions in management for all Sierra Tucson programs including Family Therapy, Primary Therapy, the Therapeutic & Recreational Activities Program (TRAP), Continued Care, Integrative Therapies and Residential Therapies. Vinck takes great pride in the quality of patient care that Sierra Tucson provides and in being a part of the multi-treatment, disciplinary team where the therapists, psychologists and staff all work together to provide the best treatment for their patients.
Prior to joining Sierra Tucson, Vinck served in a number of positions, including Corporate Clinical Director, with Journey Healing Centers from 2006-January 2014. She joined the team shortly after the opening and helped develop its Dual Diagnosis Program, Family Education Program, Intensive Outpatient Program, and Equine Psychotherapy Program. She also began her own private practice in Scottsdale in 2007, where she continues to focus on couples and families struggling with addiction and mental illness. Just prior to joining Sierra Tucson, Vinck served as Clinical Director of Northridge Counseling in Scottsdale while helping with the startup of their outpatient program.