Addiction over the holidays


Your mother-in-law asking again ‘when the children will be coming along’.

That Uncle commenting on your weight gain after his fourth beer.

Perfect cousin Sophie humble-bragging about her soul enriching volunteer experience in Zambia. (Funny how she never mentions the three week 5-star spa retreat immediately following that).

Why is Mum wearing those white jeans again?

Get me out of here.

The reality of time spent with our near and dear ones is often a stark contrast to the glowing images of Yuletide joy depicted on Netflix. This can be especially true for those of us with addictions, past or present. It’s often said that we can be most tempted to use substances or engage in addictive behaviours when we are:



Lonely or


Sounds like a perfect description of how we can feel during the festive season. This time is often when interpersonal tensions can reach breaking point, or the sting of loneliness can become so intense that it swamps us.

If you are trying to decrease your substance use, or other habits like gambling, gaming or porn, the following tips might be helpful.

  1. Have a routine to stick to. If social times are hard for you, decide when you will arrive and leave gatherings, rather than letting stress and anxiety build which can lead to using.

  2. Keep a daily self-care routine. After the year many of us have had, we need to prioritise this. Make sure that you have relaxation, physical exercise and healthy eating as part of your routine.

  3. If you are trying to keep your non-drinking decision under wraps for whatever reason, try the zero-alcohol beer and wine options available at most supermarkets. They look the part.

  4. ‘No’ is a complete sentence. If that social event, work function or family BBQ just isn't going to fill your tank, politely decline; and celebrate your ability to do so.

  5. Remember why you’re trying to cut down or stop using. Some people keep a photo of their children in their wallets, or write their names on Eftpos cards so they are reminded before they spend.

  6. If you haven’t already, try talking with someone. You can contact these people for any reason, at any time. Even if it is just for encouragement to stay the course.

  • Call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797.

  • Free text 8681 and they will text you back for a free, confidential conversation.

  • Call the Māori Line on 0800 787 798 for advice and referral to kaupapa Māori services.

  • Call the Pasifika Line on 0800 787 799 for advice and referral to services developed for Pacific people.

Remember, you are not alone.

2020 has been a challenging year for many, and the festive season can add fuel to the fire of stress if we don’t ask for help or encouragement.

Let the gift you give yourself this year be the right to do what you need to do to get well and stay well. Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa. Let us keep close together, not wide apart.



Lisa McLennan is currently working at Emerge Aotearoa and brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience from her recent roles at Careerforce, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development and Spero Addiction Services.

She is a doctoral candidate undertaking research in the fields of addiction and mental health, an experienced senior clinician, registered Addiction Practitioner (DAPAANZ), Teacher (NZEC) and accomplished presented and publisher.

If now is the time to talk about your life or career with an expert like Lisa, explore Ignite's individual support subscription options or ask your employer to consider employer subscriptions for your workplace.

Contact to find out more.

Get in touch

Want to know more about Ignite for your workplace, or interested in collaborating?  We’d love to kōrero. 


 © 2020 by Ignite Aotearoa Limited

Ignite is proud to be a part of the Emerge Aotearoa Group

  • LinkedIn - White Circle
  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Twitter