12 Ways to Battle Your Addictions During the Holidays

Temptations run high during the holidays. Here are 12 ways to keep yours at bay.
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"The More the Merrier" – Use the Buddy System

Going to a party where you know alcohol will be served can be challenging for a recovering addict. If you would like to attend the event but would feel more comfortable with a sober companion present, ask the host if you can bring someone as a support system. This person can be a sponsor, spouse or friend-just avoid relying on someone who isn’t a peer, like a teenage son or daughter, says says Greg L. Jones, MD, addiction specialist at Willingway Hospital in Statesboro, Georgia. "For people in recovery, having someone there who is on the same agenda can be beneficial, but it is important that cross-generational boundaries remain protected," he says.
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Bring Your Own Food

One of the biggest problem areas for people in recovery is often what the holidays revolve around-food, says Deborah Day, a licensed mental health counselor in Florida and author of the book Be Happy Now!. When you attend a holiday dinner or party, you’re apt to fall into the eating and drinking habits of your host along with the temptations of treats that are served. To make sure that you have something to eat or drink that is right for you, offer to bring a dish or drink to the party, Day says.
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Don’t Eat (or Drink) Your Feelings

Recognizing what triggers your bad habits is important, especially around the holidays, says Day. Many people use "HALT" an acronym for "Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired" to remember that these feelings often cause relapses. Anger, especially, is one of the biggest triggers for recovering addicts and it’s not unusual for it to surface during the holidays, says Jones. "People expect family gatherings to be great and wonderful, and then they get angry when they turn out to be stressful, which triggers unhealthy habits," he says. If you train yourself to recognize these triggers before you start eating or drinking, you can slow down to realize that you are letting your emotions get the best of you.
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Plan Ahead for a Big Feast

When it’s the day before a big holiday meal, one of the worst things you can do is "skip meals" to save calories, Day says. "Even if you are going to be eating a lot later, you don’t want to show up starving." Not only will you be more likely to overeat, it will also be harder to eat proper servings. If you plan to eat a hearty meal, make sure your plate is colorful and that you’re eating everything in moderation.
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Attend on Your Own Terms

Your invitation to yet another holiday party most likely didn’t include a "must stay the entire time" clause. So, if you feel obligated to attend a party where you there will be temptations to drink, plan an exit strategy in advance, says Dr. Jones. "It’s important that you aren’t tied down to anyone else’s schedule so you can leave the moment you feel uncomfortable or stressed." Avoid becoming your friends’ go-to designated driver, as well: Staying at a party while other guests get too intoxicated to drive can be an emotional trigger, he says. Leave when you are ready to, not after your friends’ last call.
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Limit Your Visit

If you’re heading out of town to visit relatives for the holidays, your childhood bedroom might not be the best place to stay. Increased family exposure is often a trigger for many people, but it can be reduced by having a separate place to retreat , says Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program. If you anticipate the increased amount of family togetherness to be stressful, plan alternative sleeping arrangements and nearby activities before you pack your bags. Getting the family out of the house and participating in a group activity (like volunteering) can be a good way to spend time together but not have the family be the focus of the fun.
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Raise Your Glass

Filling your glass with soda or a non-alcoholic cocktail when you walk into a party can help you resist the temptation to drink alcohol throughout the night. If you keep have a glass in your hand (and keep it full), people will be less likely to offer you some booze. To make that time spent with the bartender quicker and easier on you emotionally, plan your go-to drink of the night before you arrive at the party.
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R.S.V.P. with Caution

With invites for holiday meals, neighborhood grab bags, charity events and other obligations flooding your inbox, it can be overwhelming to choose between them or-gasp!-feel like your attendance is required at all of them. "Don’t go to parties where the only point to be there is to drink," says Jones. "Consider avoiding the events all together if there is no business, family, friend or spiritual component." If you do have to attend one of these functions, arrive just as the meal or event is beginning, instead of when the cocktail hour is starting.
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Get Rid of the Leftovers

Many people like the thought of Thanksgiving leftovers as much as the original Thursday afternoon meal. But for compulsive eaters, bulimics and others who suffer from disordered eating, crowding your refrigerator with Tupperware containers isn’t the best or healthiest option, Day says. Avoid the temptation of late night and binge eating by sending guests home with leftovers of their favorite dishes. Your waistline will thank you during Black Friday shopping!
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Expand Your Support System

Although there are more opportunities for relapsing around the holidays, there is also an uptick in the number of meetings, phone lists and community events that are meant to provide extra support. "If you step up your attendance at meetings and time spent with people in your recovery community, the increase in temptations won’t be as stressful or troublesome," says Jones.
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Exercise in Moderation

Although the holiday season typically means eating more calories than usual, it is equally unhealthy to overextend yourself by working out too much. "Heading to the gym can be a way to avoid tense family dynamics, but women should recognize that exercising compulsively does not take away any issues that exist in life," says Peach Friedman, a spokeswoman for the National Eating Disorders Association and author of Diary of an Exercise Addict. "Exercise addiction is treated similar to an eating disorder, and it is often exacerbated around the holidays," she says.
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Get Enough Sleep

Emotions run high during the holiday season, but not getting enough sleep can cause increased stress and depression-both addiction triggers. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to feel well-rested. Adults who get less sleep are more prone to weight gain, high blood pressure and weakened immunity. Before you R.S.V.P. to holiday parties, consider how your social calendar will affect your sleep schedule. Next: Beating Mid-Life Addiction
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First Published Mon, 2010-11-01 13:55

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