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Recovery advice for the New Year

Christmas and the New Year can be a tough time for some people, especially if you are trying to remain substance free or if you are recently in recovery from drug or alcohol use.

To support people during this difficult time, we have developed some tips that might help you if you are trying to avoid alcohol or other drug use.

I am already engaged with a support service/group

In the lead up to the festive season ask your support worker, group or network to help you plan for this period. Reviewing your triggers can help you identify difficult situations which might see you want to use substances and you can work through these in advance with your support worker/network and put a plan in place. Find out the opening times for your support services over the Christmas period and make plans to link in with them.

What can I do to prepare?

Make a note of the triggers (for eg, people, places, dates, thoughts) that you associate with wanting to use alcohol and other drugs, especially around this time. Be mindful of these triggers. Go over difficult situations that you expect to happen and plan what you will do in advance. For some people, this may include avoiding trigger situations altogether. Remind yourself and take note of why you don’t want to drink and use drugs. You can include things like the impact the changes you have made have had on you and on those closest to you and the work you have put in to get to where you are. You can refer back to these in difficult times.

What can I do if I am in a difficult situation or I think I may relapse?

If you feel that you want to use alcohol and other drugs, stay calm and remind yourself of why you don’t want to drink or use drugs, check your notes if you are struggling to remember. Remind yourself that you are in control of this situation.

Find something to do that will take all your attention, like going for a walk, calling a friend, reading a magazine or doing the newspaper crossword.

Whenever you feel very uncomfortable, upset or miserable, keep telling yourself it will pass. If you have cravings, pretend that the craving is like a sore throat that you have to put up with until it goes away.

If you are in a risky situation where you are around people drinking or taking drugs, and you are finding it very difficult, consider leaving.  You can explain that it is for your mental health and wellbeing that this situation is difficult and that you are leaving, or if you are not comfortable with that, you can just simply say that something personal came up and you have to leave.

Check in with your support services, family and friends for support if you are struggling.

Remember that relapse carries with it the danger of overdose due to your loss of tolerance for the substance. 

What if I relapse?

Changing habits can take a few tries. A slip-up or relapse is when you go back to alcohol or drug use after you have stopped. It can be helpful to prepare for a slip-up. If you are prepared, you are less likely to have one. Having a slip-up doesn’t mean you can’t do it or won’t succeed in the end.

Some things that can lead to a relapse:

Try again. Remind yourself why this change is important to you. Look over your reasons for changing again.

It might be helpful to write down the pros and cons. Do this on a piece of paper or download and print the Decisional Balance Worksheet (PDF) which you can find here. Set a new date and make a new plan.  Think about what was difficult for you last time and how you will handle it next time.

You might use some supports, including professional support, peer-support from people going through the same thing, support from friends and family.

Read more on the AskAboutAlcohol website.

In case of a drug related emergency or if you feel suicidal, contact 112 or 999 or present to your nearest hospital. Don’t be afraid to get help if it is related to substance use, the medics are there to support you.

Change in minimum pricing for alcohol

The price of alcohol is increasing on the 4th January. If you are a frequent user and are cutting down or stopping alcohol use, contact your GP for advice. This is so you can cut back safely and avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Where can I get support?

The HSE Drugs and Alcohol Helpline is available on freephone number 1800 459 459 and, Monday - Friday 9:30 am - 5;30 pm. 

Find a local support service to call and make an appointment with at 

The Samaritans telephone service is available 24 hours a day. For confidential, non-judgmental support: Freephone 116 123 Text 087 2 60 90 90 - standard message rates apply Email:  Visit the website for details of the nearest branch.Regular hours are Monday to Friday 9.30am-5.30

Visit Your mental health

Visit Ask about Alcohol 

Visit Tips and tools

Read an article with advice from the Rutland Centre on how to cope with Christmas when you are in recovery from addiction (Louise Ní Chríodáin, Irish Times, 16th Dec 2021)

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