Bank holidays can be a challenging time for addiction recovery

There are normally 8 bank holidays each year in the UK. In 2023, due to King Charles III’s coronation, there will be 9 bank holidays. Bank holidays are often a time for celebration, relaxation, and enjoying time off work with friends and family. 

However, for those in addiction recovery, bank holidays can present a challenge. The excitement and party mentality that often accompanies long weekends in the UK can trigger a relapse and lead to destructive behaviours. For many former addicts, certain family members and friends can also be triggers for addiction and spending extended periods of time with these people can increase the risk of a relapse.

Additionally, the stress and strain of spending a lot of time with family members can also increase the likelihood of domestic abuse.

Bank holidays can be somewhat of a minefield for those in recovery from addiction. The extra time off work, long weekends, and likelihood of social events being organised involving alcohol or drugs can offer the perfect excuse to indulge in old habits, with friends and family sometimes encouraging excessive drinking or drug use. This can be particularly problematic for anyone that is newly sober, just starting out on their recovery journey, and still learning to navigate the challenges of addiction recovery. Even those with years of sobriety under their belt can be overwhelmingly tempted to let loose and party during a bank holiday.

What are the potential dangers of the bank holiday party mentality?

It’s important to remember that relapse is not a singular event but a process. It doesn’t happen suddenly and there are certain signs that you can look out for.

If you’re in addiction recovery, it’s essential that you remain aware of your triggers and take steps to avoid them. Read more about potential triggers in our blog: People, Places, and Things.

If you know that spending time with a particular person or group of friends can lead to excessive drinking, it’s best to avoid them during the bank holiday weekend – especially if they’re actively encouraging you to drink with them.

If you feel overwhelmed or stressed, it’s important to take a step back and prioritise your self-care. This can mean taking a break from socialising and spending time alone or engaging in activities that promote relaxation and mindfulness, such as yoga, meditation, or enjoying a hobby or pastime that helps take your mind off your potential triggers.

Bank holidays, domestic abuse, and addiction.

Domestic abuse is another potential danger during bank holidays. Whilst it is important to remember that not all domestic abusers suffer from substance abuse and not all addicts inflict abuse, research has shown a strong link between excessive drug or alcohol use and both domestic violence perpetrators and victims. 

Heavy drug or alcohol use increases the chances that someone will become abusive. Similarly, the toll that abuse takes on victims causes many to turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Bank holiday weekends in the UK are often accompanied by a spike in alcohol sales, daytime drinking, antisocial behaviour related to alcohol and drugs, and numbers of people attending pubs, bars, and clubs. As such, the chances of being invited to drink heavily or take part in drug use is higher than usual.

Spending extended periods of time with some family members or friends can lead to tension and conflict, particularly if there are unresolved issues or a history of abusive behaviour. For those who have experienced domestic abuse in the past, the stress of the bank holiday can trigger traumatic memories and make them both more vulnerable to abuse and more likely to relapse. 

It is essential to recognise the warning signs of domestic abuse and take steps to protect yourself, whether you have been a victim in the past or a perpetrator of domestic abuse.

How to avoid a relapse or domestic abuse during bank holiday weekends.

If you’re concerned about domestic abuse during the bank holiday, it’s important to have a safety plan in place.

This can include:

  • making sure you have a safe place to go if you need to leave your home, a party, gathering, or pub
  • having a signal, such as a code word, to alert a trusted person(s) to the danger or risk
  • and making sure you have anything you might need, such as belongings, money, or documents easily accessible

You can also consider reaching out to your support network, such as a therapist or support group, for guidance and assistance.

For those in recovery, you will be much more likely to avoid a relapse during the bank holiday if you plan appropriately, remain self-aware, and continue your commitment to self-care on your recovery journey.

Some strategies that could help you maintain your addiction recovery and decrease the risk of relapse could include:

  • Putting a plan in place – plan for how you will spend your time over the bank holiday weekend ahead of time and stick to it. Avoid situations or people that could trigger cravings or increase your chances of drinking or drug use.
  • Keep in touch – ensure you maintain contact with your support network, such as The Recovery Lodge team of therapists and support workers, during the bank holiday weekend. This could include attending meetings or checking in with your therapist or sober friends.
  • Prioritise yourself – set time aside for self-care and activities that help you relax, such as exercise, reading, meditation, a favourite hobby, or just going for walks.
  • Practise mindfulness – take time over the bank holiday weekend to practise any mindfulness techniques you have learnt or been taught. Be present in the moment and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. If you find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed, stop, take a break, and engage in mindfulness.
  • Remain aware of your triggers – part of the recovery process is identifying your personal triggers for addiction and relapse. Over the course of the bank holiday, ensure that you know your triggers and take steps to avoid them. Avoid situations or people that you know could be triggering and have a plan in place to help you cope should you encounter a trigger.

Bank holidays, much like Christmas or New Year’s, can be an extremely stressful and challenging time for anyone in recovery from addiction as well as victims of domestic abuse or reformed perpetrators of domestic abuse. The excitement of time off work, social gatherings, and the party mentality that can accompany them can trigger a relapse, and extended time spent with family members or partners can increase the likelihood of domestic abuse. 

However, with planning, self-awareness, and the tools learned during the addiction recovery process, you can remain steadfast on your recovery journey and decrease your risk of relapse.

If you have any concerns about your recovery journey or risk of relapse and would like to discuss these, please do not hesitate to contact the team at The Recovery Lodge.

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