Marines look forward to the holiday season as a time to relax, take leave, and catch up with family and friends.  It is a time of fun, but it can also be a time of  challenges such as added demands on our time, attention, and resources.  The media bombards us with all sorts of commercials, advertisements, and invitations to party hard.  Family and friends can put this same type of pressure on us.  For Marines who are fighting problems with alcohol or drug misuse, and for those seeking to protect what they’ve earned, the holidays can be extra challenging.  The good news is that there are immediate action drills that you can take ahead of time to help you manage the holiday season and get through this time of year safely.

Develop a Vision for the Future.  Focus on where you want to be after the holidays.  It’s like keeping your eyes on the mountain you want to reach in the distance instead of looking at the hills around you.  Remember that maintaining your sobriety will help you accomplish your goal.

Take Advantage of Predictability.  You know when the holidays are and you know the activities that go along with them.  These are times when alcohol and drugs are readily available.  Take advantage of the predictability of the holidays and plan ways to avoid alcohol and drug misuse.

Know Yourself and Seek Self-Improvement.  All Marines are familiar with the leadership principle.  Take advantage of the fact that you know yourself.  Be aware of your stressors and triggers so you can avoid them.  This includes declining invitations to parties or social situations that may put you at risk for alcohol or drug misuse.  Don’t push yourself past your own limits that put yourself, your family, or other Marines in situations that trigger desires to use drugs or alcohol.

Embrace Challenges.  Look for new activities during the holidays that don’t include drinking or recreational drug use.  Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep and exercise.  When you are well-rested it is easier to face the holiday challenges and maintain healthy lifestyle choices.

Plan Not to Be Alone.  The holidays are supposed to be a wonderful time of the year for families and togetherness.  Unfortunately, in the military we can’t always be with our families.  If the upcoming holiday schedule will not allow you to be home with your family, at least find people to spend time with.  If you know of Marines who may be alone in the barracks over the holidays, invite them to your house, host a barracks function, or seek out a local 12- Step recovery group that hosts holiday events.  Whatever the situation, just make sure you have someone to share the holidays with. 

If you need someone to talk to or have a friend you are concerned about, seek help from one of your local installation’s Behavioral Health programs.  Programs such as the Substance Abuse Counseling Center or the Community Counseling Center are staffed with trained professionals who are ready to help.