Why Is It a Good Idea to Seek Treatment During Christmas
In a year marked by sickness, economic uncertainty, and social division, the 2020 Christmas season is a welcomed reprieve from the realities of this past year. With a new year approaching, the comforting nostalgia of Christmas past is an alluring proposition. Many will stream Christmas lights, decorate their tree with keepsake ornaments, brainstorm for perfect gifts, and try to temporarily forget this past year. For others, sadly, forgetting will be an impossibility. Whether it’s an empty chair at the dinner table, balancing mounting debts with buying gifts, or simply an inability to hug family and friends because of quarantine protocols, Christmas of 2020 will be immensely challenging for many.
For those struggling with an addiction this holiday season, these challenges would seem almost unsurmountable. While the holidays are a time of joy, hope, and family for many, the Christmas season can also be a time of stress, loneliness, regret, and strain for others, especially for those in active addiction. For these individuals, seeking treatment during Christmas could be the most meaningful gift to give yourself and loved ones.
Holiday Stress and The Winter Blues
This year’s Christmas may seem unusually stressful, but the holidays are always a bit inherently stressful. From gift-giving budgets to travel arrangements, Christmas never comes perfectly wrapped in a pretty bow. However, those with a history of addiction usually find the holidays especially hard, whether it’s a volatile relationship with family members, regrets of past behaviors, or sheer loneliness. To minimize emotional distress, many will default to using their drug of choice to cope.
While the Christmas holiday is typically associated with cheer, the winter season – as a whole –also presents another challenge for millions. According to psychological studies, approximately 6% of the U.S. population struggles with seasonal affective disorder, which is a major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns. Reportedly, another 14% of Americans experience a less-serious form of this disorder known as the “winter blues.” To compound this fact, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted a 31% increase of symptoms related to anxiety disorder and depressive disorders in 2020.
A holiday season characterized by overwhelming stress and depression, combined with a free-flowing acceptance and prevalence of holiday “spirits,” presents a perfect storm for those struggling in active addiction.
Recovery is a Gift of Amends and Presence
While the Christmas holiday comes with its challenges, it also offers a unique opportunity for those struggling with addiction. In the Christian tradition, Christmas represents a time of hope, redemption, humility, and joy. In a secular sense, Christmas celebrates charity, meaningful relationships, and our reflection of the past year. Making amends is a crucial step in recovery. Whether it’s family fallout, regrets, low self-esteem, shame, or anything else, we must forgive ourselves and others while also actively confronting our past actions. Seeking treatment is the first step towards this atonement with ourselves and others.
Some may argue that Christmas, with all of its planning and responsibilities, is the absolute worst time to seek help. How could we miss such a meaningful time of year, which is marked by spending it with friends and family? This is a question of actual “presence” versus mere existence. While we’re using, it’s almost impossible to be genuinely engaged interpersonally. Anyone can exist at the dinner table or while decorating the tree, but there will ultimately be a lack of substantive, thoughtful, and heartfelt presence.
Depending on the severity of use, these holiday memories may conclude as forgotten. Worse yet, these memories may turn into more regrets. In celebration of Christmas, seeking atonement with others and cultivating a true presence for yourself are ideal gifts to give. Whether your recovery helps repair relationships or re-establishes a truer identity, the gift of recovery is an investment into more meaningful, future memories.
Why This Christmas May Be the Ideal Time to Seek Treatment
Christmas in 2020 is unique for a variety of reasons. Quarantine protocols have upended normal traditions, from Christmas parties to visiting families to attending in-person religious ceremonies. In short, this Christmas may be more intimate with less responsibilities. For some, this particular Christmas may also be spent alone due to travel restrictions. For many reasons, Christmas is a uniquely appropriate time to seek treatment, though Christmas 2020 may offer more latitude to do so.
Along with this coronavirus-related practicality, there are other practical reasons to seek treatment during Christmas. For many, the holiday season means more time off of work, as many annual personal and vacation days have been collected. In addition, the end of year may be the most financially wise time to seek treatment, as insurance deductibles may’ve been met. However, whether it’s a practical reason or not to seek treatment during Christmas, the holiday season remains a time for hope and joy, and in recovery, many do rediscover these timeless Christmas hallmarks.