Veterans Experience Holiday Season Sobriety Challenges
Tips for Staying Sober Holidays
• Happy Holidays Basic Requirement: Staying Sober • Tips for Civilian Life Reintegration
• Veteran Reintegration Common Issues • Alcohol Free Winter Holiday Drinks • Uncovering Holiday Myths and Adjusting Expectations
• Holiday Sobriety Planning Tips • Using Mindfulness to Maintain Emotional Balance• Mindfulness Exercise
• VA Community Care Provider PTSD and Addiction
First Holiday Home: Reintegration After Deployment is Challenging
Veterans returning home after deployment experience significant challenges in the return to civilian life.
Tips for Civilian Life Reintegration
• Be patient with yourself.
• Be patient with your spouse or significant other and your kids.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
• Northern California – How to Sign Up for VA Services
• See 9 Tips for Reintegration After Deployment
• Know the Symptoms of PTSD
• If you have PTSD – get Veteran PTSD Treatment
• See Military Veteran PTSD Treatment Resources Northern California
Veteran Reintegration Common Issues
There will be a period of readjustment. The time needed for reintegration into civilian life varies from individual to individual. The civilian world abides by many standards that are seemingly opposite of those of the military. While it may seem simplistic – the comparison below highlights common issues of reintegration when returning home from deployment.
Must purchase all essentials
Fragmented social structure
Limitless variables in morals and values
Values Unit Cohesion
Organized social structure
Uniform code of morals and values
Happy Holidays Basic Requirement: Staying Sober
A basic requirement for veteran happy holidays: Staying Sober. Whether recovering from an alcohol or substance use disorder (or not) – sobriety is key to happy and harmonious holidays.
Most individuals experience stress during Christmas and the winter holidays. With planning and mental preparedness to stay emotionally balanced with mindfulness – holiday sobriety is possible.
Below, New Start Recovery Solutions has some tips and help for a sober holiday season.
Alcohol Free Winter Holiday Drinks
Winter holiday drinks can be fun, festive and warming – all without alcohol!
The drinks below are examples of alcohol-free mocktails. More special than a soda or iced tea – these drinks will not leave you with relationship regrets or a hangover.
Uncovering Holiday Myths and Adjusting Expectations
It would be fair to say that many Americans experience a collective cultural ‘mythology’ during the month of December. Unrealistic expectations can be an especially serious issue for veterans returning home. It is important to know and understand potential stumbling blocks before encountering them.
Learn to recognize your holiday stress triggers, such as financial pressures, frustrations or personal demands – so that you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown.
Common Holiday Unrealistic Beliefs
Myth #1: Holidays are a time of joy – and everyone is happy.
Myth #2: Everyone can eat and drink as much as they want and never suffer ill effects.
Myth #3: Frustrations and exhaustion due to the holidays do not exist. Children will not cry or act up, significant others will finally understand us completely, we will not run out of tape and wrapping paper at the worst possible moment – and we will get that last parking space.
Myth #4: I can interact with family and relatives that always upset me. But due to a ‘Christmas Miracle’ – there will be no ill feeling and all long-standing issues will be happily resolved.
Takeaway: LIFE HAPPENS
• Frustrations will occur – even in holiday seasons.
• Don’t sweat the small stuff.
• And for larger issues – be patient with yourself.
• Work on mindfully handling issues.
Getting Real – and Happy – During the Holidays
Holidays can be stressful – but they are not destined to be depressing. It is vitally important to have a Sobriety Plan.
Holiday Sobriety Planning Tips
- Make a firm determination and resolve to remain Sober.
- Have Strategies and a Plan for Relapse Prevention in Place; know potential obstacles.
- Use Mindfulness to stay in the present moment.
- Attend support group meetings.
- If family gatherings are too stressful – attend support group meetings and/or spend time with supportive friends.
- Remember self care: Check H.A.L.T. – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.
- Mindfully acknowledge and work with emotions – do not ‘bury’ unpleasant emotions.
- Allow yourself to have Real Fun – Sober. Create new sober holiday traditions.
- Give Thanks: Implement Gratitude as an Attitude whenever possible.
- Sobriety is the Priority. (And have a back-up plan in place).
Using Mindfulness to Maintain Emotional Balance
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is having the internal focus to be quietly aware of your own thoughts and impulses – without judgment and without acting on the impulses.
Studies have shown that alterations in brain and immune function are produced by mindfulness meditation. With mindfulness practice, new neural networks are created in the brain.
Mindfulness meditation research shows that Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention is effective. Study results find that mindfulness interrupts reactive behaviors and encourages thoughtful and skillful responses to relapse triggers.
Mindfulness and Mindful Relapse Prevention are core elements of the New Start Recovery Solutions rehab treatment for veteran PTSD dual diagnosis. We are a VA Community Care Provider for treatment of veteran PTSD and addiction; in-network with TriWest.
Findings from studies suggest that over the course of meditating – long-term practitioners of meditation actually altered the structure and function of their brains, ‘Neuroplasticity and Meditation’. Also see Mindfulness and Relaxation Resources for Veterans.
Below, some instructions to get started in the practice of mindfulness.
If you are feeling overwhelming stress or pressure – do the following:
- Stop what you are doing. If you need to excuse yourself and walk away to another room or outside – do it.
- Breathe deeply and hold the breath as long as you can. ‘Watch’ your breath. That is: concentrate on breathing as if this is your only activity in the world. And for now, it is.
- Slowly release the breathe. Breathe in slowly and again hold the breath.
- Repeat concentration on slow breathing for 1-2 minutes.
- When it feels comfortable – listen. Just…listen. If you are outside, hear the wind moving in the trees. Notice birdsong or even car noise. Just listen to sounds in your surroundings without making a good or bad judgement.
- The combination of centering by concentrating on the breath and listening to surroundings without involvement – will bring you back to your ‘center’.
- Our center is the place where we can just ‘be’ for a few moments, without any judgement. This is who we really are.
- Centering works to ‘break’ the connection with physical and emotional stress. It returns us to a place of inner peace.
- If an unsettled state of mind cannot be brought back into perspective through this mindfulness exercise – mindfully walk or do something else for a few minutes.
- Repeat Steps 2-5. Inner balance and calm are critical factors to implement during times of severe stress.
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