Spend the Holidays in Rehab? I’ll Think About That Tomorrow

Sanford Behavioral Health facilities


When Scarlett O’Hara said I’ll think about that tomorrow, she was putting aside a difficult decision for a more convenient time. That’s the problem with procrastinating about something painful, like addressing a substance use disorder (SUD). There is never a good time, but there’s always a good excuse.


No excuses to put off treatment

Our admissions counselors hear it all the time. I have my daughter’s graduation party next week; I’ll come to rehab after that. Or, I’m going on a cruise next month, when I get back, I’ll call you. And the biggest excuse is I can’t possibly be away during the holidays. What about my children/spouse/aged parents/five cats? You get the picture, from Halloween to New Year’s day, fewer people enter treatment centers than any other time of the year.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) maintains The TEDS system to chart records for 1.5 million substance use disorder treatment admissions annually. TEDS encompasses a significant number of all admissions to substance abuse treatment, and their data show a significant drop in rehab attendance during November and December.



Excuses? We’ve Heard a Few…

Why do folks continue to call treatment centers and gather information but put off going to treatment during the holidays? They know they have a problem but want to experience the fun. Sadly, the holiday fun often comes packaged with the same triggers that have our potential clients calling us in the first place.


“The best gift you could give your loved ones is your commitment to getting healthy during the holidays.” Sanford House Admissions Counselors

I need to attend the office party, school Christmas Pageant, planned trip to The Bahamas, etc.

This is a valid excuse. There are obligations during the holidays, especially with young children, that demand parental involvement. There might be non-refundable tickets or corporate expectations and requirements. But, if you are concerned enough to call a treatment center, you are probably already at risk of compromising your office and family relationships. You are probably already the parent who smells of telltale alcohol at the annual family breakfast or the employee who’s late or off-kilter at office events. Are you missing a pre-planned trip? Ask yourself how much enjoyment you are getting out of life. And whether you need another one of those stories to tell.


I am vital to the children’s holiday memories; I’m needed at home (or the office)…

Maybe this is painful to hear, but it is sometimes a blessing to have a family member with a SUD out of the house. Especially if that loved one is getting help, that will strengthen the family in the long run. And even if you are high-functioning at work, a substance use disorder (SUD) impacts production and decision-making. A break from work to address substance use issues is always good for the bottom line and company morale. The holidays are often when work schedules are reduced, or a significant other can contribute more to child care – an added reason to consider holiday timing as a positive.


With everything else we’re buying during the holidays, I can’t afford to go to treatment…

Alternatives to Residential Treatment might be appropriate for check-in during the holiday season. And most insurance will cover at least part of the cost of residential and Outpatient addiction treatment. The Sanford Outpatient Center allows for the continuation of everyday activities while integrating effective strategies to manage recovery and day-to-day life. And the Outpatient Center prepares holiday programming to address the particular temptations associated with the holidays. Admissions counselors are always available to discuss a variety of treatment options.


I’m going to get healthy and sober in the New Year – it’s my resolution, but I want one more holiday too…

…Stop right there. Only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions. And those of us with SUDs are famous for good intentions that fall by the wayside. Do not Scarlett O’Hara this problem. Take care of it now.


Rehab during the holidays is lonely and sad…

The cozy living room – Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women – all through the holiday…

The clinical team at Sanford Behavioral Health takes extra time and consideration to provide not only a place of support and safety for clients, but a treatment experience that takes into account the individualized needs that often arise during the holiday season. The Sanford team understands that the holiday season can bring about additional stressors that require specific interventions and careful response. The programming provided through the holiday season incorporates treatment objectives with seasonal, community excursions and extended opportunities for family interaction. The clinical team prides itself on individualized treatment programming that recognizes the potential barriers of being in treatment during the holiday season.


Treatment does not have to be lonely. The schedule at Sanford House includes: tree and cookie decorating; family brunches; holiday foods and an excursion to see the light displays in some of the local neighborhoods.  The regional Alano Club is actively promoting festive, sober events. And the staff and clinical therapists are empathetic to the sensitivities our clients might experience during the season. Holidays in rehab are actually a good first opportunity to practice sober “partying” and socializing while in the safety of treatment.


At Sanford, Christmas feels like Christmas. And New Year’s Eve like New Year’s Eve. We encourage clients to invite their families to celebrate with us. I think this sets us apart. From the specialized menu to programming and activities, we strive to make our facilities feel like a home away from home during the holiday season.


Don’t Put Off the Inevitable…

There are many options for addiction treatment and we encourage you to find a location that suits your expectations and your lifestyle. In the same way hospitals have learned that healing happens best in an aesthetically pleasing environment, rehab works best if you feel comfortable and safe. And a pleasing environment can contribute toward reducing stress and serve as a vehicle to healing.


In the end, we all have to face life’s difficulties. Even Scarlett woke up in the morning with the same issues to confront. One of the joys of recovery from addiction is the clear, clean light of a new day. There is no “perfect time” to get help for a substance use disorder. But the holidays are as good a time as any (and 2018 is almost over!). Pick up the phone and really change your life for the better in the new year…



Addiction. Eating Disorders. Mental Health 844

after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.