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Here in late September, it is already apparent in a number of ways that the year is winding down. The kids are back in school. The baseball playoffs are upon us, and so is football season. Halloween decorations are starting to appear in stores (and in the windows and yards of some houses, too). Plenty of those stores also have Christmas decorations on display. Everything is flavored with pumpkin spice.

Many, many people—perhaps you yourself—really look forward to the final months of each year. They like the crisp fall weather and find snow to be beautiful. They love dressing up for Halloween, gathering the family for Thanksgiving, and enjoying the December holidays with all the lights, music, presents, and food.

A significant number of people, however, find this time of year challenging for one reason or another (or for a combination of reasons). For people in recovery from a substance use disorder, the end of the year brings several challenges to the fore. Let’s consider a few of those challenges.

Feelings of Sadness Brought on by SAD

In a blog post titled “Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Threatening Your Sobriety?” we considered the challenges that can come with shorter days and longer nights for a person in recovery.

How can you tell if you are experiencing seasonal affective disorder (or spot it in a family member or friend)? Among the most common indicators are:

  • A significant reduction in energy that may lead to excessive sleeping
  • Noticeable weight gain related to craving carbs and overeating
  • More difficulty remaining focused on any given task
  • An increase in feelings of hopelessness and/or anxiety…

If you find yourself experiencing some or all of the symptoms we have noted, it is only natural to want to relieve those symptoms. For a person in recovery from a substance use disorder, SAD may trigger cravings for drugs or alcohol that you might hope will make you feel better. To defend your sobriety from this possibility, it is important to have some healthier strategies for addressing seasonal affective disorder.

We offer some of those strategies in that original post, and it is worth taking a look.

The Holidays Can Be Hard

In an entry titled “First Holiday Season in Recovery? Focus on Giving Gifts to Yourself” we provided a list of things you should gift yourself—a list that applies no matter how long you have been in recovery. Here are the first two gifts we suggested:

Gift Number One: Give Yourself Permission to Say No

For a time that is supposed to be about gratitude, peace, and love, the holidays sure are hectic. And the mounting demands—come to this party, attend my kid’s concert, join us for an all-day bake-athon—can really cause problems for a person in recovery. So it is essential that you give yourself the gift of saying no to some—or even all—of the invitations and demands that come your way. By politely opting out of activities that are going to add to your stress while draining your energy, you protect your sobriety.

Gift Number Two: Give Yourself Space for Simplicity

Does the thought of setting up a Christmas tree raise your blood pressure? Would you rather have some really good burgers than a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving? Would you prefer not to participate in the cookie exchange, the office Secret Santa shenanigans, or the neighborhood caroling adventure because you don’t want to bake, shop, or sing? Choosing to keep things simple is your prerogative and a great way to give your mental health—and by extension, your sobriety—a boost.

Check out the full list of gifts at the link.

End This Year and Start the Next Sober

New Year’s Eve can be a tough night for folks in recovery. We offered some tips in a blog titled “Celebrate While Sober This New Year’s Eve.” Among them:

Have the New Year’s Eve Party, Skip the Alcohol

The most obvious option for celebrating New Year’s Eve sober is to host your own party—and to ensure there is no alcohol on hand. Alternatively, you could seek out a “dry” party hosted by someone else. Perhaps your recovery community would like to spend the special evening together, ringing in the new year with good cheer and non-alcoholic beverages.

As long as everyone who is invited to the gathering understands that there is a strict no-alcohol policy in effect, you can celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next in style.

There are more tips at the link.

No Matter the Season, Sobriety is the Reason

At French Creek Recovery Center in Meadville, PA, we believe today is the day you should reach out to get help if you are struggling with drugs or alcohol. No matter the time of year, we are here to provide personalized treatment for substance use disorders. From medically supervised detoxification to a rehabilitation program that provides sobriety strategies while also addressing co-occurring mental health disorders, to our commitment to providing ongoing support in the early days of the recovery journey, we have the expertise and empathy necessary to help you get and stay sober.