Holiday Season Is ‘Bermuda Triangle’ For Potential Substance Abuse Relapse
White House Drug Czar And Odyssey House President Unveil Strategy For Maintaining Recovery
Treatment experts call it the “Bermuda Triangle” of potential drug and alcohol relapse. The holiday season of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day can be a risky time for many drug and alcohol abusers in recovery. The availability of and temptation to use drugs and alcohol, combined with the increased stress of the holiday season, put many recovering substance abusers at risk of relapse.
Dr. Peter Provet, President of Odyssey House, and Mr. John Walters, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and President Bush’s “Drug Czar,” will highlight the dangers that the holiday season present to substance abusers and offer guidelines for maintaining recovery. They will be joined by residents in recovery at Odyssey House teen, family, and senior citizen programs.
WHO: U.S. DRUG CZAR JOHN WALTERS ODYSSEY HOUSE PRESIDENT PETER PROVET, Ph.D.
WHAT: Strategy for maintaining recovery during the holidays
WHEN: Tuesday, November 30 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
WHERE: Odyssey House Family Center 219 East 121st Street New York, NY 10005
Relapse Prevention Tips for Families over the Holidays
Avoid exposing family member in recovery to alcoholic beverages and other substances of abuse
Allow open discussion of feelings regarding abstinence and sobriety
Encourage the family member in recovery to invite a recovering peer to family gatherings
Support requests for involvement in recovery related activities such as attending support groups, sober holiday parties
Do not pressure the recovering family member to attend gatherings which may cause emotional discomfort
Remain aware of any behavior by your recovering family member which is similar to old patterns related drug or alcohol using behavior
Do not assume that controlled alcohol use by your recovering family member is an acceptable alternative under any circumstances
Do not hesitate to contact the treatment facility staff for consultation or guidance if your suspect that your family member has relapsed or is in a “danger zone.”
If relapse occurs, strongly encourage your family member to return to the program and inform treatment facility staff.
Thousands of people receive treatment for drug addiction each day. Eliminating drug use is absolutely necessary for a successful recovery. However, even individuals who are determined to stay clean often suffer one or more slips before achieving long-term sobriety. Research indicates that up to 90% of recovering alcoholics will have a relapse at least one time in the four years following sobriety; similar outcomes are probable for addicts, as well. While this is a setback, it does not mean that a person cannot recover from addiction. That person may have to restart treatment to enable him or her to again get on the road to long-term and secure sobriety. It is the reason for the 12-Step expression “One Day at a Time.”
Relapse is not an isolated event, but rather a process whereby an individual becomes dysfunctional or unable to cope with life in sobriety, and thus can no longer avoid using alcohol or other drugs. This process of becoming dysfunctional may lead to renewed alcohol or other drug use, physical or emotional collapse, or even suicide. The process is marked by predictable and identifiable warning signs that begin long before the return to use or collapse occurs. Progressively increased distress levels in any one of the problem areas — physical, psychological or social — can lead to physical or emotional collapse, resulting in relapse. These symptoms increase and intensify unless the individual returns to the use of alcohol or other drugs. One particular warning in early recovery occurs when a recovering person begins to seek out situations involving people who use alcohol or other drugs.
Given that addiction can be a chronic, progressive disorder often characterized by relapse, the opportunity to reenter treatment must remain open. For example, in women continued relapse may point to a more serious disorder that was not initially diagnosed, such as post traumatic stress syndrome resulting from past sexual or physical abuse or current abuse. In order to address these and other issues in women’s lives, such as stress connected with being a single parent, low income, being identified as a maltreating parent, and having few social resources, any or all of which may bring about relapse, separate attention to these issues is needed — attention that extends beyond the substance abuse treatment process. In order to prevent relapse, the client may have to continue addressing these issues for years after leaving treatment. Formal relapse prevention components that offer means for early detection of relapse and tools for intervention should be included in every treatment program.