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How to Deal with Familial Stress While Sober

Everyone reaches a point at least once in their lives where they think “My family stresses me out.” For most of us, that means taking a break from family gatherings for a while or re-establishing boundaries you set that are now being disregarded. However, for people recovering from substance abuse, familial stress, especially around the upcoming holidays, can be even more difficult to deal with.

Why Is It Important to Manage Stress While in Addiction Recovery?

Stress is a commonly mentioned trigger that leads to drug or alcohol use and relapsing. For many individuals, these substances are seen as a way to deal with their emotions and the pressure placed on them by their family and loved ones. Dealing with stress in sobriety can be especially difficult, as your usual safety net, the substance of your choice, is no longer an easy-to-access way to cope with what you’re feeling.1

How to Prevent Family Stress

Preventing family conflict and the stress related to it can be challenging, but the following three ways may help make the process easier:

Pick Your Battles

For a lot of people, stress and family relationships go hand in hand. Picking your battles and avoiding pointless arguments can help reduce your stress significantly.

Learn to Identify When Someone Is Trying to Start an Argument

Know when someone is trying to start an argument and simply walk away or change the subject. It may be tempting to get involved in the discussion, but family arguments rarely end on a positive note, which could affect your sobriety and focus on recovery.

Go to Family Events with Boundaries in Mind

Set boundaries about what you will and won’t talk about or do during family activities. Ensuring you keep your health and well-being first will result in far less stress for you on your recovery journey.

How to Cope with Family Stress

Sometimes family stress and coping with it are inevitable. You can’t avoid every conversation or argument, so the best way to stay calm and grounded is to practice some of the following coping mechanisms:

1. Know It’s Okay to Opt-Out of Situations if They Cause Too Much Temptation

Saying no to family events can be difficult, but, if you know they will cause too much stress or temptation to use again, you are doing your mental and physical health a favor by saying no.

2. Prioritize Your Mental Well-Being

Make your mental health a priority, and don’t let family stress or activities jeopardize that. A stable mental state is vital to maintaining sobriety.

3. Be Mindful of Your Breathing

Deep breathing exercises can reduce the overwhelming emotions associated with anger or sadness during family conversations.

4. Excuse Yourself to Take a Moment to Recenter

If you’re stuck in a stressful situation, excuse yourself, take a breather, and wait until you have calmed down before re-entering the discussion.

5. Consider Meditation, Yoga, or Exercise

Meditation, yoga, and exercise are all excellent ways of building mindfulness and a sense of control over your body and reactions. This can help reduce stress and offer you new ways to cope with the upsets that come with close-knit family life.

6. Speak with a Professional

Talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you find new ways to cope and recognize when you’re at risk of relapsing.

7. Identify Family Members Who Are Best Avoided

Sometimes you’ll have to avoid the family members that repeatedly stress you out. Even if it upsets them, it’s important to remember your mental health comes first and that your recovery journey shouldn’t be affected by their negativity.

What to Do if Family Stress Leads to Relapse

Sometimes these coping mechanisms aren’t enough, and you find yourself using drugs and alcohol again to cope. This is not a failure. If you’ve relapsed due to familial stress, your best bet is to find a rehab that can help.


Choose a center that offers relapse prevention and stress management treatments. Adelante Recovery Center provides both, alongside personalized, dedicated substance abuse recovery programs.

If a loved one or you have relapsed or are struggling with addiction, contact our team today at (949) 427-9099 to get the assistance and information you need to access treatment.


  1. https://www.drugrehab.com/recovery/dealing-with-stress/

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