Relapse Prevention / Awareness For The Holidays

As the holidays are approaching, it’s supposed to be a time of celebration and quality time with family.  Because most of us live among busy schedules, we look forward to just taking it easy, relaxing, and starting fresh after the new year.  For many of us, this means taking a break from sports, school activities, and even therapy.

But let me caution you.  If you are in recovery from any mind-altering substance (alcohol, drugs, etc), this is the time of year when you should be MOST on guard.

If you have a family member 635851957709905633676035697_sad-christmaswho is in recovery, we want you to be informed about the possibilities of relapse through this holiday season between Thanksgiving and the New Year.   While this is a time for celebration with our families, this is also a time of high stress and triggers from the past.  These are 5 Tips that can help you prevent relapse for yourself or a loved one:

  1. Make going to your recovery meetings a priority.  This time of the year, it is easy to put them down on your priority list. Do not make excuses, make your meeting!  If you haven’t been to one in a long time, find a local AA group, Celebrate Recovery group, or have a mental health checkup with a marriage & family therapist or a mental health counselor.
  2. Do not isolate during the holiday season.  Spend time with healthy
    family, local church groups, or other people in recovery. There are plenty of safe places to go and spend the holidays in order to be around people that truly want to see you succeed.
  3. Take the time to do a daily inventory.  Look for warning signs, and/or any related problems at the beginning and the end of your day. Listen to your body.  Ailments, headaches & body aches are trying to tell you0f6ec44f634f9f923d935867f2c3108c something – and it’s not that you’re getting sick.
  4. Take the time to volunteer.  Serving others is a great way to extinguish those old self-centered behaviors.  It truly does make you feel better to give your time for a worthy cause, or to help another person.  There are many agencies & churches who are looking for people to help disadvantaged children & low-income families.  Even if this describes yourself, you will be amazed at how you don’t even think of using or abusing when you are serving another person.
  5. Make sure that you are in contact with your accountability team and/or sponsor. Having people on your team is very important to your success in recovery.  When you have a sponsor and a team, you are NEVER alone!  They are committed to you and your joy.  Don’t let relapse steal it away.

The goal of relapse prevention is to teach people in recovery and their families how to anticipate and cope with the potential relapse before it actually occurs.   As we know, there will be great temptations during the holiday season to pick back up old habits (for old time’s sake, because you are “safe with good ‘ol dad”), so it is important for us to be prepared.  Here are a few tools, that will help you to stay on guard through the holiday season.  Remember, relapse does not have to be apart of your recovery.


img_9444*This was written by Everette Coffman, MS Intern, who is on the Leadership Team at Celebrate Recovery.  He is also a Marriage & Family Therapist intern, working with Family Life Counseling Center.  He specializes in addictions and sports psychology, among other mental health issues.*

What Are You Afraid Of? I’m Not Scared


I recently led a symposium along with 2 of my colleagues and when I asked some people why they didn’t come, their response was, “Oh, I’m not afraid of anything. I have a close relationship with God and trust Him with anything I’m unsure about”, or some other very similar response.  This was said from a few people whom I know would’ve benefited from hearing the seminar.  After hearing their responses, I realized that many people aren’t even aware that Fear is what is holding them back from being successful or having a healthy relationship.

So, I’m going to let you in on some of the notes of what you missed:

Most of us know about the obvious fears that keep people from living happy lives and being free from worry. Those include fear of heights, water, being claustrophobic, fear of germs/sickness, fear of dying, or fear of spiders/insects/snakes. But, what about those fears that keep us from experiencing true intimacy, healing, and freedom?


  1. Fear of Rejection. We all have some degree of being afraid of not being accepted or loved for who we are. But some of us fear rejection so much, that we allow ourselves to be mistreated, manipulated, or even abused. We want someone to love us so much, that we become wrapped up in everything that person does and says. If we’re not careful, we can become so enmeshed with our own children’s dreams and desires, that we forget who we are, what we like, and how we feel for the sake of having our children love us. Often, in therapy, I’ll ask a client what they enjoy doing – not what their spouse does, and not what they do with their children, but for themselves? If they sit and think and do not know what they like to do for themselves, I know they are afraid of rejection. If this is you, you have become a slave to the love and acceptance of others and don’t even know it.


  1. Fear of Intimacy. Being afraid of being known grows out of our own feelings of worthlessness, feeling unlovable and not liking who we are or what we do. We create a “game face” that shows others what we think they will like, admire, love, or respect. The walls we put up may include being spiritual, an advocate for community service, or we may medicate ourselves with sex, substance abuse, pills, becoming a workaholic or engulfed in our personal fitness. When we look perfect or act like we have it all going on, then people admire from a distance and don’t try to get too close.
  1. Fear of Failure. Those of us in this category experience love with strings attached to our performance. We believe that we have to behave in a certain way in order to be loved. People who are afraid of failure handle it in two different ways: A) They become driven “Type A” kinds of people who try to do it all and become emotionally and physically exhausted, and have difficulties connecting to close friends or their spouses. B) Others are so afraid of failing, that they refuse to even try. They don’t apply at higher positions, further their education, or experience the fullness that life has to offer, because they’re afraid of not doing a good job or having others say they can do it better.
  1. Fear of Abandonment. If we are alone, we believe that no one will love us or accept us. When we are afraid of being abandoned, we will do one of two things: A) We will jump into a relationship without knowing that person, and pursue them aggressively. No matter how that person behaves or treats us, we will put up with it. We make ourselves believe that anything they do, even if it is a betrayal to who we are, is better than being left alone. We have the false belief that as long as we are in a relationship or part of a group, then we are not alone. The problem is, we feel worse about ourselves, because in the midst of everyone else having a good time, we still feel lonely. B) Other people in this category do just the opposite. They jump ship and disconnect from relationships and people when the first thing goes wrong. They believe in the saying, “I’ll hurt them, before they can hurt me.”


  1. Fear of Powerlessness. This one is hard for people to see in themselves. A person who is afraid of being controlled or losing power, usually has a lot of repressed anger and is told by others that they are too controlling or bossy. They become obsessed about something in order to feel like they are gaining a sense of power in a life that is actually chaotic, such as a failing marriage, abusive parents, or troubled children. This is what it looks like: an immaculately clean “model” home, he/she wears pristine outfits and dresses his/her children in the latest trends. Or, he/she goes to the gym daily and focuses heavily on or obsesses over their health & fitness. There is an irony to being preoccupied with maintaining control and protecting ourselves from further pain. The more we try to manage and control our children, our spouses, and others around us, the more disconnected we become and cause our lives to spin more out of control.
  1. Fear of Inadequacy. This is closely related to being afraid of failure, except we believe we will never measure up or be worthy something to anyone. We carry a lot of shame from what others have said about us, that we believe we are bad or that we are not good enough. We deal with this shame by getting tangled up in the “give up- try harder” mentality. When we’re feeling good, we’ll “try harder” by trying to prove to ourselves or others that we are worth it. When be start feeling afraid of what others are thinking or how they feel about us, we’ll “give up” and medicate ourselves with various things to feel better. People who are afraid of not being good enough for others to love are not able to experience true peace.

Until we are able to identify what our fear is, we will continue to get stuck and not feel happy or at peace. It is important to recognize what our fears are and share them with a trusted friend, with God, or with a counselor to begin your journey to a fulfilling life of abundant joy.

Photo 1:  Frustrated Guy Image via Shutterstock         Photo 2:  A suspicious woman using a smartphone outside. Photo Credit mheim3011/iStock/Getty Images

Sandi is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who works with individuals to gain insight into the “why” of their behavior, so they can live in freedom.  She is the owner of Family Life Counseling Center in Central Florida.

Debunking the Myth of Therapy


I’ve often wondered why it’s so hard for us to see the importance of getting a mental health checkup.  Our brain and our mind are THE MOST IMPORTANT things for us to be alive.  To feel alive.  Our mind tells us when/where/why/how we do things.  Little daily things like, “Wake up” or “I’m Hungry”.  Mediocre things like, “I need to say hi to my boss when I see him this morning.” or “Remember to give the kids their field trip money”.  Major things like, “Call Susie and tell her you love her before she flies out tonight” or “I am not going to let this affect me the rest of my life”.

So, what keeps people from finding a personal marriage and family therapist or mental health counselor to help them with their goals & finding solutions, just like they go to their dentist to keep their teeth clean and healthy?

1.  I’m fine.  I have a good family.  I was raised in a good environment.  I’m an adult and should know how to fix my problems by now.  These things may all be true.  Some problems can be taken care of by exercising, eating right, and having a support system; much like we can take care of basic first aid, such as a bee sting, a minor cut, or a burn from the stove.  But, what if you’ve done everything you and your family/friends know to do, and your 3 yr old is STILL not sleeping through the night or you’ve read every marriage book out there and you and your husband are still arguing about the same issues and you’re both about to just give up?    Just like a good mother would take her child to the doctor if that cut becomes infected, a committed wife should seek out a marriage therapist to keep her family from being destroyed by unspoken issues.

2.  If I admit I’m having problems, people will think I’m weak or that I’m crazy.  It would be strange to think of someone who has cancer as being crazy because they undergo chemotherapy or to look down upon a parent because he/she takes their child to get braces on their teeth.  When we have problems with coughing and breathing, we go to a doctor to see if it’s bronchitis.  Because we have to deal with people who are of different cultures, different backgrounds, and different socio-economic statuses at our jobs and in our schools, we WILL have problems with people and within ourselves from time-to-time.  We can save ourselves a lot of time and heartache if we go directly to someone who can help us sort through those frustrations and misunderstandings before we lose relationships, friendships, and our own children.

3.  Most anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders have a biological component and can just be treated by my primary doctor.  Nothing is more frustrating than going from doctor to doctor, and then specialist after specialist, only to find that there is nothing “wrong” with you and yet, you are still having physical ailments, infertility problems, or weight issues.    Mental health problems are not caused by solely bad genes or a biological chemical imbalance, according to the research we have to date.  Most medications (with a few notable exceptions, such as those prescribed for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) prescribed for mental disorders should be taken for short-term (under a year) symptom relief. **It is important to note that it was never meant for a person to be on psycho-tropic meds such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills forever.  They are only to help stabilize your moods, until you work with a trained professional such as a marriage & family therapist, mental health counselor, or psychologist to learn coping skills and how to handle what life gives to you individually.

In fact, many physical ailments, such as diabetes, gastro-intestinal problems, infertility, migraines, high blood pressure, joint pains, are caused by anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder.  Our minds are THAT POWERFUL!!!  We MUST learn to listen to our bodies.  If we are continuously getting sick, our bodies may be telling us it’s time to sit with a therapist or counselor to get to the root issues that we are unaware of.  Just like psycho-tropic meds only serve a temporary purpose, other medical treatments only resolve surface symptoms, while the root cause of your physical ailments remains untreated until you seek out mental health treatment.

4.  Mental health disorders are labels that are life-long and difficult to treat.  Just like the flu comes and goes or cancer can go into remission, mental health disorders are very similar.  Parenting stress comes and goes.  Anxiety comes and goes.  Depression comes and goes, as difficult times in life occur (a death of a loved one, loss of a job, children leaving for college), but it does NOT have to last forever.  There are many types of mental health treatments that are short-term, often in as little as 6-12 weeks, depending on the nature of the issue.  Even major mental health disorders can be treated in 6-12 months, instead of years.  **It is important, however, to remain active in quarterly, or bi-annual mental health checkups, so a crisis doesn’t occur.

5.  If I seek out a Marriage and Family Therapist to help me with my children, then I must not know what I’m doing as a mother or father.  There are many, many parents and friends who claim to be experts in potty training, disciplining, and building bonds with children.  The problem is that each child and each family is so uniquely different.  There are thousands of different techniques and tools on how to communicate, how to have a healthy argument, or how to raise children.  On top of this, our society is changing at lightening fast rate and books and family traditions often cannot keep up with the new trends in pornography, sexuality, etc.  A therapist or counselor has been uniquely trained for a minimum of 6 years, had over 3,000 clinical hours of working solely with children, parents, and couples supervision and post-master’s supervision to learn how to recognize how individuals interact with each other and impact each other.

By reading this, it lets me know that you’ve thought that counseling might be of benefit to someone, maybe even for you or your family.  It doesn’t hurt to try it out and see all the benefits there are to having regular mental health checkups with your personal therapist.





Healthy Marriages, Families, Children

Welcome! Let me introduce myself to you…

I am a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who has a passion to help families understand each other, make healthy choices and create positive changes in their lives.  Please take the time to explore my website at Contact (  I also understand that it can be extremely difficult to choose the right therapist for you and your family.  My goal through these blogs, is that you will begin to connect with me and realize that you have a purpose in life and hope in your future!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11