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Community learns methods for maintaining sobriety during holidays

  • Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan, who is also co-chair of the Opioid Task Force, speaks during the "Recovery During the Holiday Season" program at Greenfield Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Clarice Rivera, a recovery coach with the Center for Human Development (far right), speaks during the "Recovery During the Holiday Season" program at Greenfield Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Katherine Harris, a clinical aromatherapist and herbalist with Crow Lady Herbals (at far right), teaches the emotional freedom technique (EFT), also known as tapping, during the "Recovery During the Holiday Season" program at Greenfield Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline



Recorder Staff
Saturday, November 04, 2017

GREENFIELD — Hoping to share ways of maintaining sobriety during the holiday season, the Opioid Task Force partnered with members of the recovery community to offer a “Recovery During the Holiday Season” program Saturday.

Meeting in the Greenfield Public Library, various speakers — including those in recovery themselves — discussed how stress from the holidays, as well as the frequent availability of alcohol, can trigger relapses in people recovering from alcohol or drug abuse.

“So many people focus on parties and alcohol and so many things we’ve managed to connect to the holiday season,” explained Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan, who is also co-chair of the Opioid Task Force.

Likewise, holidays might be associated with past abuse or arguments with family members.

“If we grew up with a substance user or as the child of a substance user, we might have horrific memories of the holidays,” said Annie Parkinson of the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery.

Parkinson, who served as one of the event’s facilitators, said holidays are never as perfect as they appear on the Hallmark Channel, but that those struggling with addiction can use coping skills to relieve holiday stress and chart their own path in recovery.

Finding a safe environment

Sarah Ahern, founder of local advocacy group EndTheStigma, said surrounding herself with supportive people who believe in recovery was one of the most important techniques that has helped her get through the holiday season.

“I try to bring a sober buddy,” agreed Clarice Rivera, a recovery coach with the Center for Human Development.

Likewise, Ahern recommended attending substance-free events or staying busy, while Parkinson proposed those in recovery have “a craving plan” to help them avoid relapse, and bring along their own beverages.

“What’s in your glass only matters to you,” Parkinson said.

Using a labyrinth

Maggie Sweeney of the Community Labyrinth Coalition recommended attending monthly labyrinth walks at the Episcopal Church of Saints James and Andrew on Nov. 26, Jan. 28 and Feb. 25, all from 4 to 5 p.m.

Using a labyrinth, she said, keeps the body moving but doesn’t involve many choices, which de-escalates the mind. A temporary labyrinth was set up outside the library for community members to try.

Employing mindfulness practices

Jackie Humphreys, a trauma therapist out of South Deerfield, advised using mindfulness practices, which she defined as maintaining “present moment awareness without judgment,” can be useful to de-stress.

“A pause is really one of the most important things you can do for yourself,” Humphreys said, showing attendees how to focus on themselves sitting or breathing to reconnect with the present. “The pause is how I get connected to what I need.”

Similarly, Ahern said meditating regularly has helped her to not overthink and maintain her recovery.

Practicing self-care

Leslie Chaison, founder of the People’s Medicine Project, spoke to how acupuncture and herbal remedies can calm the mind. Specifically, she recommended routine baths with Epsom salt, following by rubbing sesame oil on one’s skin.

“I like to say self-care is an antidote for self-harm,” Chaison said, whether that harm means spending too much time on the computer, cutting, or turning to drugs or alcohol.

Katherine Harris, a clinical aromatherapist and herbalist with Crow Lady Herbals, suggested using oils like lavender or peppermint.

“Smelling something, it’s one of the few things that goes right to your brain and can shift your mood,” she said.

Harris also talked about emotional freedom technique (EFT), also known as tapping, by which someone can tap spots on their body — specifically on the top of the head, eyebrow, side of the eye, beneath the eye, under the nose, on the chin, on the collarbone and under the arm — to neutralize overwhelming or negative emotions.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261 ext. 257