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Ideal Option says there are ways to manage stress, family members and the impacts of COVID-19 for those in recovery.

COURTESY PHOTO: IDEAL OPTION - Recovery patients speak with a provider at Ideal Option. The addiction treatment center has five locations in Oregon, including Hillsboro.

For people in recovery from addiction, the holidays can be tough. But if you're struggling at this time of year, a treatment clinic in Hillsboro wants you to know that you are not alone.

Ideal Option offers access to medication-assisted treatment for a variety of substance use disorders, including alcohol and drug use.

Daniel Goulette, who works as a physician assistant and lead provider for the center, points out that substance abuse disorder is considered a lifelong medical condition. And it's common for stress, family dynamics and disruptions of routines at this time of the year to trigger relapse for people in recovery from addiction, Goulette says.

But there are things people can do if they're experiencing cravings as a response to an environmental cue or trigger.

"Journaling is really powerful," Goulette said. "It can help process anxiety and work through some of the complex emotions surrounding that particular cue or trigger.

COURTESY PHOTO: IDEAL OPTION - Ideal Option offers access to medication assisted treatment for a variety of substance use disorders, including alcohol, opioid, stimulant, and sedative use. The center hopes it can help people navigate recovery during the holiday season.

"I also recommend reaching out to recovery support. Sometimes in periods of struggle, the instinct is to kind of fold in on yourself, but it's important to reach out to those who support your recovery. That can be a sponsor or a counselor."

If you're traveling for the holidays — which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against doing this month, due to the risk of spreading or contracting the coronavirus — Goulette suggests maintaining structure and healthy routines, so there isn't "a sense of loss of control," which can increase the risk of relapsing.

The center also recommends avoiding people, places and things with which you may have a history of substance abuse.

If you're someone who knows someone in recovery, Goulette says that can be a challenging situation to manage. It all depends if that person has shared their recovery and prior substance use struggles with you, he added.

"Just making yourself available and understanding that this is a brain disease," said Goulette, on advice he offers to people in recovery. "Manifestations of that brain disease can be compulsory use and self-destructive behavior."

He says that reducing some of the stigma a person might be feeling can go a long way to help them deal with cravings.

Along with the holidays, the coronavirus pandemic has also impacted people in recovery from addiction. Goulette says negative impacts from COVID-19 include financial concerns such as job loss.

"A lot of our patients have lost jobs, and as a result of that, they're now maybe struggling to pay rent (and) struggling with bills," he said. "That's a tremendous stressor."

Goulette added, "COVID has obviously shut down a lot of in-person meetings, which is a big impact on recovery classes. … It can isolate a lot of folks in recovery."

The center hopes people can reach out to them for assistance during the holidays, a pandemic or anytime they need help with recovery.

If you or someone else needs help with drug or alcohol addiction, call the National Drug and Alcohol Helpline at (844) 289-0879.

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