So the fall semester is beckoning the arrival of finals and—finally—winter break. Christmas lights and fall memorabilia are streamed vicariously throughout dorm halls and classrooms nationwide.
But as the last remnants of a humid summer fade into a chilly wind and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season comes into full swing, this family-oriented season may instead perpetuate feelings of loneliness and depression within young adults struggling with substance abuse.
Instead of spending time with family and friends, young adults and teenagers may have isolated themselves from family due to past behaviors while they were addicted to drugs and alcohol. The holidays, especially Christmas, may spark nostalgic memories of family, home, and love, which can then trigger mental disorders and suicide.
In Part 2 of the Youth in Recovery series, we will examine why the holidays may be a dangerous season for young adults in relapse and preventative methods to prohibit thoughts of suicide and depression.
Santa claus, mistletoes, and the grinch of addiction
Those naïve about addiction and relapse, may not understand how thoughts of a joyous holiday can be cringing to young adults in recovery.
Let’s break down this scenario:
For a teenager or 20-something-year-old who doesn’t have the support system of family and friends, time away from school during the holidays can be detrimental to their self-esteem and could even bring back memories of loved ones. Smells of certain foods, the “cookie-cutter” family pictured in a Publix ad for Thanksgiving, or even the prickly sensation of a freshly chopped Christmas tree can all be triggers of regret, depression, and even suicide.
According to an article on Psychology Today, “Why People Get Depressed at Christmas,” the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that Christmas is the time of year when people experience the most depression. A North American survey discovered 45 percent of Americans dreaded the holiday season, according to the article.
And that’s not all they dread.
In some cases, a college student may have to face the pressure of their family’s abundant expectations when they come home for break. If the student is already struggling with their identity and unwillingness to express concern, coupled with stress, this can drive them back into the escapism of drug abuse.
At least, that’s what a similar circumstance did to Will Hartigan, a 26-year-old who struggled with drug abuse while attending Cornell University.
In his blog post published by Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, “School Stress: My Recovery From Stimulant Abuse,” he describes how his unrealistic aspiration for success and self-temperament drove him deeper into a dysfunctional opiate addiction.
“I was a shell of a human, living only to prove to the people around me that I was a good person despite my failures,” Hartigan wrote.
“I believed that if I could sustain the feeling I got from mixing OxyContin and Adderall for the rest of my life, that the sky was the limit for success. It relieved me of my insecurities, I was happy and relaxed, and I wasn’t tortured by my guilt.”
For anxious family members diligently awaiting the arrival of their young adult from college, it’s important to consider that bombarding them with 21 questions about their sobriety and school can trigger them into relapse.
Below are some tips on how parents and family members can help their young adult stay in recovery. Ultimately, the decision to remain abstinent from drugs is up to the recovering addict. Therefore, family members shouldn’t blame themselves if relapse occurs.
Guiding youths in relapse
The holidays can be a time of gratitude as families gather to celebrate a specific tradition or observance. Although studies have connected the holidays with depression, it doesn’t have to define the environment for a young adult grappling between their sobriety and succumbing to the pressure of fitting in on campus.
Understanding that adolescence is a time where most people are searching and responding to the difficulty of finding their person is crucial when trying to guide youths in recovery.
Depending on past traumas, friends, or insecurities, some young adults will resort to different methods of coping with these issues than others.
As a parent, you may be thinking that intervening about recovery while hovered over a freshly roasted turkey, and grandma’s pecan pie may be awkward.
You’re right. It is!
However, don’t cringe if you’re already guilty of this behavior.
Here are some suggestions on how to handle a possible drug relapse without enabling or controlling your young adult.
Tip #1. Try not to be too overbearing if you want to ask about drug use or peer pressure in college. This conversation may be best when you and your child are alone from the rest of the family.
Tip #2. If your child is showing signs of relapse, then don’t spark an argument. Feelings of hurt rather than anger may be the source of your contempt, but expressing this will only reiterate the child’s sense of failure.
Tip #3. If they have relapsed, try to take action. Suggesting treatment and your support will indicate to them that, while you’re disappointed, your focus is on their health and not the addiction.
Tip #4. After suggesting treatment, don’t enable their old habits. Often parents will become enablers without knowing it. Giving them extra money or pretending like you don’t notice the signs of substance abuse perpetuates the same disorientation your child is stuck in.
Tip #5. Try to attend meetings or therapy sessions with your child. Be supportive, but not controlling. Allow them to make their own decisions during recovery. Even if this means they decide to drop that biology major in college and pick up another one, such as social work. This may be a sign that they are beginning to establish goals and a future for themselves without unhealthy peer pressure—or they’ve failed biochemistry more times than you know.
Stay tuned next week on Friday, Sept. 30, for the final part of this series, “Youth in Relapse: Is ‘Bae’ Hurting Rather than Helping?” an article about how unhealthy relationships can trigger a relapse.
To read part 1 of this series, “Youth in Relapse: Back-to-School Prompts Drug Relapse,” click on the link.
Need Help Finding Treatment?
At Elevate Recovery Center, we are committed to helping young adults struggling with recovery. Our modern facility will make anyone from any background feel right at home while actively deciding to change their lives for the better. If you are a concerned parent, call our 24-7 specialist for more information about our treatment center. Call us today at (844) 318-0073 and gain the understanding you need to help guide your child into treatment.
Did You Know…?
Did you know September is National Recovery Month? To honor those in recovery, check back on our site for an update on this series as well as other featured articles about recovery.
To view our content schedule and to check out the rest of Delphi’s facility sites, click here.
Also, Delphi Behavioral Health Group is giving a struggling addict the opportunity to gain back their life. Delphi’s “Inspiring Wellness” Scholarship is aimed at giving someone free treatment to finally defeat the chains of addiction. To read more about the guidelines and how to apply, click here.