Avoiding Relapse During the Holidays
Articles / Blog

The holiday season is filled with family, indulgence, parties, festivities – and stress. This creates the perfect storm for a relapse in recovery from substance abuse. The top reasons for relapsing are stress, negative or challenging emotions, seeing or otherwise sensing the object of addiction, and times of celebration.

The holidays are the rare time of year that brings all of them together. Whether you have been in recovery for a few weeks or for years, staying sober during the holidays is tough. However, with these tips on staying sober, you can make it through the holiday season without relapsing.

Santa should not be the only one to make a list and check it twice during the holiday season. For sober holidays, make a list of your priorities. It is easy to become overwhelmed by party invitations, familial and social obligations, the workplace, and other stressors.

If you make a list of your priorities, with your sobriety in the number one spot, you will be able to have a better handle on all your obligations. Additionally, do not be afraid to say no. If you do not feel comfortable going somewhere, or know that you are already too stressed out, just say no instead of adding even more to your plate, which can cause a relapse.

Surround Yourself With Support

One of the most important ways to stay strong and avoid relapsing is to surround yourself with supportive people, especially when you know you will be vulnerable. Make use of your support network, including your sponsor, therapist, family members, and friends. Open up about your worries and concerns, and be honest.

Do not surround yourself with people who will tempt you to use drugs or alcohol or who enable your addiction. When you go somewhere you know will be full of temptation or triggers, bring along someone from your network of support. Additionally, talk before and after the event, and during if necessary, with your sponsor and/or therapist, especially when attending an event you know will be difficult. You do not have to be alone this holiday season.

Planning is very important for relapse intervention. Avoid temptation as much as possible. When you consider whether to attend a function, consider the level of temptation. Only attend parties that are not just about the drinking or drugs. In order to better realize how well you can handle a party or event, look at your intention for attending. Is it to see friends and family and enjoy their presence, or is it to have ready access to drugs and/or alcohol?

If it is the former, then attend the party. If it is the latter, avoid it. In addition to temptation, consider your triggers for drinking or doing drugs. If you know an event will have many of your triggers, stay at home. If you have to attend, be sure to bring someone with you to hold you accountable.

Plan Ahead For Temptation

When you are at a party, make a plan for how you will respond to temptation. Most likely, someone will offer you a drink. Be firm about saying no, and be prepared for people who try to pressure you to join in the festivities. Have a ready response when people ask why you are not drinking, especially if you are nervous about it. It is easy to say you are the designated driver or on medication that does not allow you to have alcohol.

A similar response can work for offers of drugs. When you order a drink, be specific about what type of nonalcoholic drink you want so there is no space for misinterpretation. If you feel too conspicuous with a nonalcoholic drink, then you can drink club soda with a lemon, which will easily pass for a spirit. Finally, have an exit strategy in place if you feel too vulnerable at the party. As soon as you notice that there are too many temptations or stressors, leave.

Another way to avoid relapse and help yourself is to remain healthy and stress free during the holiday season. Overindulgence, stress, and other unhealthy habits increase your chances of relapsing. Exercise, eat healthy, meditate, do yoga, or perform other relaxation techniques in order to keep stress at bay so you do not feel tempted to drink or do drugs.

If you keep yourself healthy, then you will be able to be stronger in withstanding temptation. Additionally, distract yourself by trying new activities that do not involve any kind of alcohol or drugs. You can also create an affirmation or mantra that reminds you of the importance of sobriety and look at or repeat it often.

Continue Your Treatment Plan

When you struggle through the holiday season, do not forget to continue your treatment, whether it is meetings or therapy. Even if you go out of town, engage with your sponsor and/or therapist via the telephone. Attend meetings in the place you visit. Increase your contact in these supportive environments if you feel it is necessary, especially before an event. You can remain strong and persevere with these holiday relapse prevention techniques. It just takes effort, mindfulness, and support.

Sovereign Health Group is a leading behavioral health treatment provider that utilizes evidence based and cutting edge treatment programs for addictions, eating disorders, mental health problems and co-occurring conditions. At Sovereign Health, we know how difficult recovery and maintaining sobriety can be, especially during the holidays.

We offer a comprehensive aftercare program, TEAM (Technology Enhanced Aftercare and Monitoring), which is easily accessible online anytime from anywhere. We encourage those in recovery to find a support system for help, especially during difficult periods like the holiday season. If you feel you or a loved one is in need of help, please contact admissions toll free at (866) 819-0427 with any questions.

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Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado

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