January 17, 2020
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Hugo C. Franco, M.D. contributes to topics such as Addiction.
Juliet Caldwell, M.D. contributes to topics such as Addiction.
The start of a new year can be filled with the possibility of new beginnings. It can also be a stressful time for many of us, and for people struggling with a substance use disorder, it can trigger emotions that put sobriety at risk.
The start of a new year is also the perfect time to make a plan to stay sober, even when triggers abound. “Being around one’s drug of choice sets off a cascade of neurobiological triggers in the brain,” says Juliet Caldwell, M.D., director of addiction medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center. “For instance, being around alcohol can trigger intense cravings in someone who’s in early recovery, and it takes intense effort to not pick up that first drink.”
Here are four tips to help you survive the stress of the new year and stay sober:
- Manage your exposure to triggers. For example, arrive late and leave early at social gatherings to spend time with loved ones while limiting time exposed to triggers. “Plan how you can minimize your exposure to very stressful events and try not to go beyond your capacity,” says Hugo Franco, M.D., a psychiatrist at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
- Bring a sober buddy who is in recovery or someone who can support you. For events you’re worried could be stressful, bring a support person. “The mere presence of one person who understands what you’re going through is extremely powerful,” Dr. Caldwell says.
- Stay consistent in attending meetings. If peer support groups are a normal part of your recovery, make sure you keep going in the new year—and consider going to more meetings, even though you’re extra busy this time of year. “There’s always a meeting going on, and then you can be around people who understand and support you,” says Elizabeth DiGiose, MA, LPC, LCADC, a nationally certified licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor at the Booker Behavioral Health Center.
- Stick with prescribed medication. “It’s important to adhere to your medication regimen,” Dr. Caldwell says.
Hackensack Meridian Health offers a variety of transforming behavioral health services.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.