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Holiday stress vs. addiction

By Nancy R. Pulido, LCSW, CAP MDFAC | 12/19/2013, 9 a.m.

The holiday season can be a stressful time for all women. Many can be bombarded by the all-consuming desire for holiday perfection. They have to buy the “perfect” gift or plan the “perfect” party. Then there is the need to look our best with the added stress of trying to keep that “perfect” figure to fit into that “perfect” holiday outfit. All of that can be overwhelming for those who can handle the stress. But others have to be careful.

Women in recovery – from alcohol or drug addiction – is one such group. And this time of year can be very stressful for them, as most holiday events include the serving of alcoholic beverages.

The risk of relapse is very high during this time of year, and it’s important for women struggling with recovery to seek counseling and stay connected to support groups. That’s exactly what a 45-year-old, married mother of two, whom we will call Rosa, did for the holidays.

Rosa began drinking when she would accompany her husband to weekly gatherings with other couples. “I never had a problem with drinking before,” Rosa said. But she realized there was a problem when her husband of 20 years pressed her for a separation. She decided to seek professional help.

During counseling, Rosa realized that she had a serious problem. Alcohol had contributed to her leaving her job, sinking into depression, developing low self-esteem and losing interest in daily activities.

“Even my children voiced dismay and shame about my appearance in front of their friends,” Rosa now admits.

With guidance from her counselor, Rosa began to learn how to manage cravings and identify the triggers and stressors that drove her urge to drink. With the help of her family, she cleared her home of alcoholic beverages. She also realized that simple activities were very effective in helping to manage her cravings. Rosa began working on puzzles and created a space in her house for the activity.

As a bonus, she decided to use her new skills to help her part ways with another harmful habit – smoking. Today, Rosa has gained a new confidence in her ability to manage her life. The state of her appearance and marriage has also improved, and she recently decided to return to work.

Avoid the people, places and things that cause you stress and that you associate with drinking and/or drugs, when possible.

Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital offers a variety of behavioral health services for children, adolescents, adults and seniors. We also provide a variety of support groups for patients and their families. For more information, call 305-355-7147.

Nancy R. Pulido is a licensed clinical social worker and certified addiction professional with specialties in recovery and trauma.