Why Do Holidays Lead to Relapse?

Why Do Holidays Lead to Relapse?

Imagine this: the sun is shining, the temperature is perfect, and you are sitting in your lawn chair barbecuing hamburgers and hotdogs waiting for it to get dark so you can watch the fireworks to celebrate America’s birthday.

You look to your left, then you look to your right and everyone has a cold drink in their hand… except you. You’ve always had a few drinks at holiday get togethers but now you are in recovery. The stress of being in an uncomfortable situation is enough but adding in the fear of relapsing is overwhelming and no one seems to notice the struggle.

That’s what you do, right? You have a few drinks with the family or take a couple hits with friends. It’s your social norm with the people you spend time with – it’s routine.

So how do you “stay on the wagon”? That depends on you and where you are in your recovery, but there has got to be something that helps, right?

Tips for avoiding a relapse over the holidays


First, know that holidays are generally some of the most stressful times of the year. There are so many triggers and cravings during the holidays.

What are your triggers? Is it family conflict, the disruption in your schedule, the financial burdens, the expectations, the emotions, or a combination of all the above? Again… OVERWHELMING!

Knowing your triggers before you show up to that BBQ is step one in helping. If you know what doesn’t help, then you know to communicate those concerns or set some boundaries for yourself, so you are only handling what you know you can handle.

Second, having some strategies in place may be helpful for situations that you want to enjoy but know there will be substances. Here are a few simple strategies you may be able to start with:

  • Sometimes a set schedule can help—knowing that you only have to be around this for one hour then you can leave and go to meeting, means you know what to expect.
  • Get enough sleep before you go—if you are tired, handling the stress will be more of a challenge.
  • Take your sober support with you–you don’t have to be the only one not drinking. You have a right to ask people to respect your recovery.
  • Schedule sober activities at the party: horseshoes, frisbee, swimming, catch, etc. Make it
    something that you enjoy that doesn’t require using.
  • Prepare a polite way to say no to invitations–whether it is before the BBQ or party and you just don’t want to go at all, or while you are there, and someone asks you if you want a drink. What is a comfortable way for you to say no?
  • Use your coping skills! What has worked for your sobriety so far? Going for walks, 12-step
    recovery meetings, reading, yoga, exercises, deep breaths, journaling, talking, etc. Whatever you do to help maintain your sobriety, do it.

How you are feeling is understandable. Accept that what you are feeling is normal and believe that you can manage it. You know you the best, so go in prepared and do what you know works for you.

If you can, communicate your concerns, fears, struggles, and needs so that others can help. You don’t need to do this alone, but you do need to do it. YOU CAN DO IT! Good luck this summer and enjoy the sunshine!

2019-03-04T19:39:51-04:00July 2nd, 2018|Addiction Treatment|

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