If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, you may be looking ahead to the New Year and vowing that once the holidays are behind you, you’ll reach out for the addiction treatment you need and get your life back at last. The question is, why wait? “There’s all this misery that’s happening, and by putting off getting help, all you’re doing is hurting yourself,” explained Jason Powers, MD, chief medical officer of The Right Step family of addiction treatment centers in Texas. “Why go through suffering that’s avoidable?” The holiday season can, in fact, be the perfect time to go to rehab, despite what you may tell yourself about the wisdom of delay. Consider, for example, these familiar excuses for procrastinating and the reality behind them:
- There’s too much going on to think of rehab now.
The reality. Yes, the holidays are packed with commitments, but how many of them are truly essential? And how many of them outweigh your physical and mental well-being? Checking yourself into rehab can be the greatest gift you’ll ever give yourself — a chance to prioritize working on you. It also has the benefit of taking you away from situations that can be a trigger for substance abuse. There’s also a practical side to checking into rehab over the holidays: The pace slows in many occupations, and it can be easier to schedule time away from work. (And if you’d rather not broadcast your rehab plans, your absence is less likely to be noticed during this peak vacation time.) You’re also more likely to get into your preferred rehab facility if you act during the holidays. Addiction treatment centers tend to be at their busiest in January, when everyone else who has put off a fresh start finally acts. If you’re one of the procrastinators, you may find yourself on a waiting list instead of getting the help you need right away.
- A few more weeks won’t make a difference.
The reality: Each day that your drug or alcohol abuse is calling the shots is one more day you put yourself and others at risk. Accidents, DUI arrests and fatal crashes soar this time of year, and alcohol and drug use can cause or worsen a variety of ailments such as depression, anxiety, heart disease and certain cancers. And then there is the epidemic of overdose deaths — up 137% since 2000. In short, “waiting could be fatal,” Dr. Powers said. It’s also important to understand that substance abuse changes the brain in ways that affect your ability to make good decisions, and those changes become more entrenched and harder to reverse over time. While it’s natural to be apprehensive about dealing with your problem, Dr. Powers said, “now is the easiest it will ever be.”
- It’s impossible to quit this time of year.
The reality: The holidays come with seemingly endless enticements to eat, drink and be merry, and it’s tougher than ever to say no. You may even find yourself thinking, “I’ll just get it out of my system one last time.” But rather than use this as an excuse to put off your recovery, take advantage of the safe harbor rehab offers to get away from these temptations and rethink your relationship with them. With some effort now, you can ring in this New Year happy and hopeful rather than sick, tired and hungover — and with one less item for your list of resolutions.
- I can’t be away from my family over the holidays.
The reality: There’s no doubt that you’ll miss them and they will miss you. But here’s the payoff: Instead of another holiday in which everyone walks around on eggshells praying you’ll make it through the day sober and you inevitably disappoint them and yourself, you’ll be working toward a better life for all of you. You’ll also be giving them another gift — peace of mind. Instead of wondering and worrying, they’ll know you are in a safe place and getting the help you need from trained professionals. It’s natural to want to try to make it through another Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah with the family, “but don’t wait until things get so bad that everybody has had enough,” Dr. Powers urged. “One more holiday with somebody who needs help is not a positive thing.”
- It’s just too depressing to think about being in rehab over the holidays.
The reality: Your addiction doesn’t know it’s a holiday, and what better time of year to learn how to cultivate true sources of happiness rather than continuing your painful effort to find it in drugs or alcohol? Add to that, the holidays at a drug rehab program come with an extra glow — decorations and special meals, service projects that teach the joy of helping others, and opportunities to connect with those rooting for you back home. And the season adds an emotional resonance that can be a powerful aid to the introspection needed for addiction recovery. In fact, far from depressing, the holidays in rehab can be especially uplifting. “Of course, it will never be the ideal holiday,” said Dr. Powers, “but if it turns into a lifelong recovery, it’s one you’ll never forget.” By Kendal Patterson Follow Kendal on Twitter @kendalpatterson