‘It is a major trigger:’ Holidays can bring extra stress for those recovering from alcohol addiction

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 4:56 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS and IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - For those struggling with alcohol addiction or in active recovery, staying sober during the holidays can be a struggle.

Although there are many resources throughout Eastern Iowa to help keep people on track, it’s often still a constant battle. Kelly Reitzler, Director of Residential Services at Area Substance Abuse Council, said addiction isn’t so much about the use, but the emotional baggage people carry.

”They just don’t have the skills to deal with that so they turn to alcohol and substances to try to cope. So when we enter the holiday season, which is stressful for all of us, it is a major trigger,” Reitzler said.

And while the holidays often include more time with, Reitzler said many who are in recovery can feel a sense of shame or guilt because of what their addiction has done to loved ones.

”That in and of itself can lead to higher relapses and slips. And it really boils down to being able to reach out for help,” Reitzler said.

And there’s a market for people who want to stay sober during celebrations.

”And I just thought to myself, why can’t there be a place where anyone can come?” Amber Haines, Unimpaired Bar co-founder, said.

Unimpaired Bar opened in downtown Iowa City in October 2021. It’s like many of the bars you’ll find in the college town, just without alcohol.

”The holidays are hard for some of us, I think alcohol has touched everyone’s life in one way or the other, but we just always want to be that safe place. That anyone can come to,” Haines said.

Haines herself has been sober for four and a half years.

”Sober, not sober, sober curious... We’re here for you, and that’s what’s most important,” Haines said.

And in the end, if you have a loved one you think is struggling during the holidays, Reitzler said there’s one big thing you can do to help.

”We want to help. Just go very open and make sure they know that they’re loved,” Reitzler said.