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Avoiding Holiday Triggers and Relapse: Your Guide to Staying Sober

The festive season, with its merry celebrations and family gatherings, can be a challenging time for those in recovery. The combination of heightened emotions, social pressures, and the presence of alcohol or other substances can pose threats to one’s sobriety. Having a holiday relapse prevention plan is essential for anyone who wants to enjoy the festivities without risking their hard-won recovery. Here’s a guide to understanding holiday triggers and how to ensure addiction and the holidays don’t mix.

Recognizing Holiday Triggers

Understanding and recognizing triggers is the first step toward ensuring you stay on your path of recovery during the holiday season. Some triggers might be obvious, while others might be more subtle. Here’s a deeper look into common holiday triggers:

Social Events

Holiday gatherings, whether with friends, colleagues, or family, often have alcohol or other substances readily available. The mere sight or smell of these substances, or seeing others indulge, can be enough to invoke cravings.


The holidays come with their own set of stressors, from the pressure of gift-buying to the emotional strain of dealing with family dynamics. For many, substances were once a way to cope with stress, making this a potent trigger.


This is a nostalgic time of year, and many individuals associate holidays with past substance use. A particular song, the aroma of a specific dish, or even a decoration can bring back memories of previous years’ indulgences.

Feelings of Loneliness

lonely man on the bench autumn, winter

Not everyone has the luxury of being surrounded by loved ones during the holidays. For some, this season can amplify feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can be triggering in and of themselves.

Pressure to Celebrate

There’s an underlying expectation to be merry and joyful during the holidays. For someone in recovery, this pressure can feel overwhelming, leading to the desire to turn to substances to fit in or feel the expected holiday cheer.

Changes in Routine

The holidays often disrupt our regular schedules, with vacations, parties, and other events. These changes can unsettle someone in recovery, making them more susceptible to relapse.

Unresolved Family Conflicts

Family gatherings can sometimes mean facing unresolved tensions, conflicts, or past traumas. These situations can evoke strong emotions and the desire to use substances as an escape.

Recognizing these triggers doesn’t mean you need to avoid the holidays altogether. Instead, it empowers you to approach situations with awareness and develop strategies to cope.

Crafting Your Holiday Relapse Prevention Plan

Goals plans make to do and wish list for new year christmas concept writing in notebook.

With the knowledge of potential triggers, it’s possible to create a strategy to handle them proactively. Here are steps to incorporate into your prevention plan:

  • Stay Connected: Regularly check in with your support group, therapist, or trusted friends and family. Share your feelings and any concerns you have about upcoming events.
  • Have an Exit Strategy: If you’re attending an event where there might be substances, plan an exit strategy. This could be as simple as arranging transportation ahead of time or having a trusted friend on standby to call.
  • Limit Exposure: It’s okay to decline invitations if you believe the event might be too triggering. Prioritize your sobriety over social obligations.
  • Start New Traditions: Consider starting new, sober traditions. This could be a movie night, a sober holiday party, or volunteering.
  • Practice Self-Care: The holidays can be hectic. Ensure you’re taking time for yourself, whether it’s through meditation, exercise, or simply reading a book.
  • Be Prepared to Say No: If offered a drink or substance, have a response ready. This could be as simple as “No, thank you” or explaining that you’re now living a sober lifestyle.

Addiction and the Holidays: Finding Joy in Sobriety

Remember, the holidays are a time for joy and celebration. While the season presents its challenges, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on your recovery journey and appreciate the strides you’ve made. By recognizing the potential triggers for relapse and having a robust holiday relapse prevention plan, you can navigate the festive period with confidence.

Additionally, always remind yourself of the reasons you chose sobriety in the first place. The holidays can be an especially poignant time to remember these reasons and to be grateful for the support and love that has helped you on your journey.

Embracing the Holidays with Strength and Support

Happy and Joyful People Dancing with Friends at a Home Party

The festive season, while brimming with joy and celebration, can also present challenges for those committed to a life of sobriety. Recognizing holiday triggers and proactively developing a holiday relapse prevention plan ensures that you can enjoy the season without jeopardizing your recovery journey. Remember, each challenge faced and overcome further solidifies your commitment and strength in sobriety.

If you are or a loved one is struggling with the pressures of the holidays, or if you simply need guidance and support during this time, Adelante Recovery Center is here for you. Our dedicated team understands the complexities of addiction, especially during the holiday season, and we’re committed to offering the support and resources you need. Don’t navigate these challenges alone; lean on professionals who care. Reach out to Adelante Recovery Center today and let us be a part of your journey to lasting recovery.

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