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The holiday season can lead some to struggle with sobriety

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 9:01 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone but it may pose more challenges for those dealing with mental health issues or addiction.

David Stoecker is the executive director for Better Life in Recovery and knows firsthand just how stressful the holidays can be for people in recovery.

”Alcohol revolves around a lot of holiday activities so you’re going to have people drinking whether it’s a family get-together or it’s a work holiday party,” Stoecker says.

Stoecker has been sober for nearly 13 years.

“Seldom do I have to explain myself to somebody who says do you want a Dr. Pepper or a Coke and I say I want a Coke,” Stoecker says. “But it seems like with alcohol a lot of times, somebody’s like oh I’m gonna get beers and I’m like just get me a tea. Why don’t you drink? It feels like you have to explain yourself. The truth is I don’t think we have to explain ourselves.”

Stoecker recommends planning for any obstacles or triggers you may face, creating an exit strategy, and trying to bring a sober buddy along with you.

“Tell the person you’re with, hey this is what it looks like,” Stoecker says. “If you see me start to act like this, then pull me to the side and talk to me. We’ll go as soon as you see something or I see something.”

Executive Director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Stephanie Appleby, says the holiday season adds a lot of pressure into people’s everyday lives.

“Finances factor into that as well,” Appleby says. “A lot of pressure on people to come up with money that they may not have had before or had to worry about before.”

People struggling with their mental health may turn to substance use as a solution. However, Appleby is urging people to find healthy, long-term coping skills.

“A lot of times it’s easier to get illegal drugs than psychiatric medication,” Appleby says.

For some, it may be hard to tell if they or a loved one has a substance use disorder.

Stoecker says that can be the case if negative consequences come from the drugs or alcohol but they continue to use anyway.

“They’ve got two DWI’s and yet they continue to drink,” Stoecker says. “It’s broken up their marriage and yet they continue to still use drugs. I think that’s the biggest indicator.”

If you think it’s a problem, Stoecker says it’s important to address it. However, there are things to avoid.

“Don’t use accusatory words,” Stoecker says. “So often we look at it as a weakness or a moral failure. Say hey you know what, I’ve noticed this and it has me concerned. I wanna talk to you about what I’m seeing so you can let me know whether or not I’m seeing what’s there or maybe it isn’t. I would rather have somebody come at me head-on than have somebody beat around the bush.”

Appleby agrees.

“Say I’m concerned for you but I wouldn’t say I’m concerned about you,” Appleby says. “What we don’t wanna do is accuse somebody of doing something wrong.”

Better Life in Recovery offers free counseling and resources.

“We’ve got a really good relationship with all of the treatment providers in our area,” Stoecker says. “We don’t provide treatment ourselves so we’re not gonna say your best fit is with us. Instead, we’re gonna sit down and talk to you and give you some options about where you can go. Maybe you just need a little more support. Maybe you don’t have a problem. Maybe you have a mental health issue that you want to address some other way.”

You can call Better Life in Recovery at 417-368-0852 or find out more here.

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