By Matthew Goldenberg, D.O. If you are a professional whose alcohol or drug use has gotten out of control, you may be telling yourself that when the New Year comes, you will reach out for the help that you need. Your addiction is likely telling you that you can make it through one more holiday. It may also convince you that this year will be different; you will finally stick to your New Year’s resolution to get sober. Putting off treatment is especially appealing during the holidays. No one wants to be away from family and friends during the time of year that is all about togetherness. There is also the appeal of waiting to “turn over a new leaf” in the New Year. And really, what do a few more days matter? The problem, of course, is that each day does matter with addiction. It is one more day in which you continue to put yourself, others and your career at risk, one more day for the addiction to deepen, and one more day in which to potentially disappoint your family, your colleagues and clients, and yourself. Delaying getting help during the holidays also means missing out on what can actually be one of the most advantageous times of year to go to get addiction treatment, including residential rehab, for a variety of reasons. Consider, for example, these pluses:
- Residential rehab facilities tend to have more availability this time of year because everyone is doing the same thing — holding off and making New Year’s resolutions. Taking action now, rather than joining the crowds seeking treatment in January, means you are more likely to get into your preferred program right away, rather than facing waiting lists or having to compromise on a second or third choice.
- From a purely practical standpoint, the pace slows in many professions over the holidays, and for some it can be easier to schedule time away from the job.
- Taking time off of work over the holidays can be an aid to confidentiality. As the holidays are a peak vacation time, being gone for a block of time will attract less attention from friends and colleagues and spark less curiosity than other times of the year.
- Being in rehab during the holidays means you bypass all the temptations that can come with the season. You will miss the office party this year, which means you will not end up drinking too much and embarrassing yourself, or getting a DUI on the way home.
- Many professionals such as doctors, pilots and attorneys who need addiction treatment have licensing boards that monitor (or contract with another entity that provides monitoring) their recovery and fitness to return to duty. Being willing to get help during the holiday season signals to the board your seriousness about establishing a strong primary recovery and your commitment to your career.This is also the perfect time for employers and supervisors to reach out if you suspect a colleague or employee has a drug or alcohol problem. By offering your colleague or employee your support and encouragement over the holidays and the ability to access the addiction treatment they need, you are investing both in the person and their ability to make your business a success. Then when the New Year comes, they’ll be rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running.
- Good rehab facilities encourage celebration of the holiday season and provide the means to do so. There will be opportunities to connect with family, special meals and events, emotionally satisfying service projects, decorations — all of which help build even greater bonds in the treatment community than would happen at other times of the year.
- There is an emotional depth, potentially triggering events and strong family of origin themes to the holiday season. This time of year can lead to serious reflection which can be a powerful aid to understanding and dealing with the issues underlying your substance use — a key part of recovery.
- Rehab is an investment for you and your family. Taking one holiday season now to achieve lasting sobriety will lead to improved quality of life for years to come. Your loved ones will undoubtedly consider your time away a small price to pay to have you get back on track and break free of the destructive patterns of the past.
It really comes down to this: In the short-term, not being around those you care about for the holidays can feel like one more way you are letting them down. However, when you consider your current struggles and the ability to transform your life for the better, taking the time to get treatment is the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones. Your family and friends get a break from their worry, knowing you are in a safe environment and improving your life and, by extension, theirs. You get the gift of recovery and the ability to start off the New Year truly happy and healthy.