How to Avoid Relapsing During the Holidays

The holidays are upon us. And while it seems like most of the world is joyous and celebratory, for others, this time of year can be stressful, lonely and depressing. Furthermore, holiday temptations abound—from free flowing alcohol at parties to getting together with old friends and family who might not understand or support your sobriety. Thus, knowing about relapse possibilities and recognizing triggers can help you maintain your sobriety during this holiday season.

Who Relapses?

Those in early recovery are more at risk for relapse, due to the overwhelming signals they receive from their addicted brains, telling them to use drugs and drink. The instant they feel (most of the time without recognition) the pangs of desire for drugs or alcohol, they respond by getting high. It is the natural thing for them to do once the addiction has taken hold of their minds. However, this time of season can be a vulnerable time for anyone struggling with addiction as people in recovery have to deal with stressors not normally encountered.

Common Holiday Triggers

Being mindful of the temptations and moods this time of year can trigger is key. Common triggers include:

  • Family gatherings
  • Holiday parties
  • Disruption in schedules
  • Financial stress
  • Travel
  • Depression

Feeling Tempted? What to Do

People in recovery have to monitor their sobriety constantly. Being vigilant especially around the holidays is crucial in preventing relapse. By being aware of possible addiction triggers and having solutions in place such as support groups, therapy sessions, and healthy activities, it is possible to enjoy the season as well as maintain sobriety.


Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions' counselor.

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