If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, rehab and getting treatment is one of the best things you can do for yourself. But, for many of us, making that realization just before the holidays feels anything but good. In fact, for most of us, the gut instinct is to wait until after Christmas to go to rehab. You start realizing you have a problem with substance use, you realize it’s almost the holidays, and you set your recovery goal for the new year. The perfect new year’s resolution, right?
In most cases, that’s the absolute wrong approach. Not only does delaying treatment mean you’re less likely to seek it out at all, but delaying tactics are part of a normal pattern of behavior for substance abusers. With that in mind, the short answer is, “yes, you should go into rehab over Christmas”. The long answer is slightly more complicated, because you likely want to weigh family and responsibility concerns as well.
Denial Delays Treatment
Delaying treatment is an extremely common form of denial in addiction. In fact, delaying treatment until X date or X goal is reached is the most common form of denial. “I’ll stop drinking when we finish the move”, “I’m using to deal with stress, I need that until I get the raise and money problems go away”, etc.
In fact, chances are, you might have made similar realizations in the past and put off treatment for other reasons. The more this is a recurring pattern for you, the more important it is to drop everything and get treatment the minute you realize you need it.
Why? By the time the new year rolls around, chances are, something else will come up. You’ll have to finish a project at work. You’ll have to help your kids with something. You’ll have a project at home. If you allow yourself to start making excuses as a reason to not get treatment, you can easily fall into a loop of constantly using them. And eventually, that will be detrimental to your health.
Christmas is a Break
For many of us, Christmas is an ideal time to take a break from work, often with no questions being asked. That can make it incredibly easy to take the full time you need for rehab off from work without having to answer as many awkward questions. That’s true whether you go for a short-term rehab of 28 days – or a longer term of 90. While you’re not actually obligated to tell your employer why you’re taking time for something like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which offers you up to 90 days off for personal medical reasons – taking the time off around Christmas can reduce that burden. At the same time, you might want to do so anyway, simply because many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), your insurance from work likely covers at least of residential treatment, and you’ll have more help that way.
Reducing Chances to Drink
Most people spend considerable time drinking and using over the holidays. That’s true even at work parties, where the holidays are one of the few times where you drink at work. Stepping out of holiday parties, bar visits, and trips to restaurants selling alcohol can give you the space away from alcohol to actually cut back – and at a point when you would normally binge worse than ever. That decision can be crucial for your health, your wellbeing, and your family over the period – because it spares you and them potentially difficult and dangerous scenarios. If you know you have problems with control, going into rehab might be the best thing you can do. Even if you miss out spending Christmas with family.
However, if you do have family and you would like to spend Christmas with them, chances are, you can. Most rehab centers offer family visitation, and you’ll be able to make arrangements to spend Christmas, either in the facility or outside of it. Other, stricter ones might not allow this, however, you’ll still have visitation.
Taking a Break from Stress
The holidays can be a lot of fun for many of us but they can also be a lot of stress. Whether that relates to end-of-year wrap-up at work, hanging lights, making Christmas meals, meeting plans, entertaining family, visiting family, etc., the holidays are often hectic. That can be too much, especially if you struggle with substance abuse. If you’re having mental health problems and are using drugs or alcohol to cope withs tress and distress, throwing yourself into more stress can be disastrous.
That’s also true if your problem is having not enough to do rather than too much. If you’re alone, have recently experienced a loss or a breakup, or don’t have people to spend your holidays with, moving into rehab can be a great decision for your mental health. While most of us see the holidays as a time to have fun and to enjoy ourselves with others, that can backfire when you don’t have those opportunities, and the result can be feeling lonely, left out, and craving drugs or alcohol.
Do You Need to Go to Rehab Now?
Rehab is a safe space where you can go to recover from substance abuse, to learn how to cope without substances, and to learn how to cope with substance abuse and what it’s done to your mind and body. If you’re struggling with using drugs or alcohol, it can be a safe space away from stress, available drugs and alcohol, and the people and places that trigger you to use. That can give you time and space to build better coping mechanisms, to find motivation to quit, and to recover from physical dependency and withdrawal – which might force you to keep using while you have responsibilities.
If you use drugs or alcohol habitually, self-medicate with substances to feel better or to relieve pain, take prescription medication outside of a prescription, or use in scenarios when it could be dangerous to you – you have a problem. That also holds true if your life is negatively affected by substance use but you cannot or will not stop for whatever reason. Usually a medically supervised detox is necessary to allow you to stop safely.
Eventually, it can feel like a waste to spend your holidays in recovery. But Christmas is a time of stress, increased levels of alcohol abuse, and hectic schedules for many of us. Stepping outside of that and getting the treatment you need through an alcohol rehab or substance abuse rehab program can be instrumental in being able to recover. And, eventually, it means being accountable for yourself and for your health, refusing to make excuses, and doing the necessary thing to help yourself recover.