Department of Human Services | Holidays Can Challenge People with Substance Use Disorders
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Holidays Can Challenge People with Substance Use Disorders

Department of Human Services Reminds Individuals with SUD of Coping Strategies and Tips for Loved Ones

Dec. 21, 2018

(TRENTON) - As another holiday season unfolds, the New Jersey Department of Human Services reminded individuals with substance use disorders and their friends and loved ones of coping strategies to help support them during the season.

The holidays are typically marked by celebration and good cheer for many people, but expectations, festivities and general pressures of the season – combined with the increased presence of alcohol - can create anxiety and difficulties for many people.

“The holidays can be a fun time, but they also can be stressful, especially for people with substance use disorders,” said Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. “The many social and professional gatherings during the season can increase the pressure, but there are strategies that can help people cope so they can enjoy themselves while sustaining recovery.”

The Department’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) urged people with alcoholism or substance use disorders to plan ahead for holiday parties so they can apply strategies and reduce risk.

“Just remember - you are not alone,” said Human Services Assistant Commissioner Valerie Mielke, of DMHAS. “You can call the Telephone Recovery Support line, 1-833-TALKTRS (825-5877). Also, surround yourself with people who support your recovery and plan ahead so you can best equip yourself to avoid relapse.”

Helpful hints and coping strategies issued by DMHAS include:

  • Evaluate each situation for the risks it presents;
  • Arrive and leave early;
  • Drive yourself;
  • Bring a safe drink with you;
  • Know and avoid your triggers. The most common triggers correspond to the acronym HALT — when you feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Take care of yourself, mentally and physically, to ward off these triggers;
  • Low blood sugar can leave you anxious or irritable. This, in turn, can make you feel impulsive and tempted;
  • Keep stress under control.  Take a few minutes to decompress and meditate. Make time for regular exercise;
  • Rehearse responses you can use to decline off-limits offers;
  • Lean on your support system. Stay in contact with positive, supportive people in your life; If you're part of a support group, make time to attend a few extra meetings during the holidays; and
  • Avoid mixing alcohol with prescription medication. Medicine can increase the effect of alcohol.
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