on Mental Health
A holiday primer for dealing with addiction mindfully
As family and friends begin to gather during the holidays at one point or another may have to face either ourselves or a loved one with addiction. There are really very few people who are not touched by addiction in one way or another. Addiction comes in the form of alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, eating, sugar, and other compulsive behaviors that are an avoidance strategy and eventually cause distress.
When caught up in the cycle of addictive behavior, there is an inability to accept whatever is being felt in the present moment and the mind is constantly wandering onto the next "fix." So it’s safe to conclude that addiction often builds a wall of disconnection and makes it difficult to actually be present for the holidays.
If you or someone you love struggles with addictive behavior, it may be a good idea to do a bit of preparing and planning for the holidays. Here are some tips:
Plan some activities that don’t focus on alcohol, like games, sports, or talking.
Be aware that there may be people who have addictive behaviors and don’t make the flaw of saying, “Hey, how come you’re not drinking?” In other words, don’t bring attention to the fact that someone isn’t drinking.
If you have an addictive behavior, make sure you have a trusty alternative. Remember, cravings often last a maximum of 20-30 minutes. Bring a bottle of water or if sugar isn’t your addiction, make sure to bring some chocolate with you, sometimes sugar can trick the brain into feeling satisfied.
Keep a number on you of a trusted friend or someone who can talk you down if a craving pops up.
Take a time-out and go to the bathroom or outside or for a walk and practice some mindfulness with "urge surfing." Urge surfing teaches us to use the focus of our breath as a “surfboard” for riding the wave of uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and sensations rather than the usual approach of try and avoid the discomfort of the urge by using. Read more about it here.
You may want to write some of this on a card and take it with you to remember because the brain may not function that clearly when cravings hit.
As much as possible, practice kindness with yourself and others during this holiday.
Please share what works for you below or any comments and questions you may have. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
For more information about mindfulness and addiction, read this series I wrote earlier in the year:
- Mindfulness and Addiction Part I
- Mindfulness and Addiction Part II
- Mindfulness and Addiction Part III
This article was originally posted on Mindfulness & Psychotherapy with Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
To learn even more about practicing mindfulness to deal with addiction and relapse prevention, consider Elisha and Stephanie Goldstein's CD: Mindful Solutions for Addiction and Relapse Prevention.