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8 Ways to Avoid Relapse during the Holiday Season

Snowy Landscape

Are you feeling stressed out this holiday season?

Are you worried that dealing with family, managing a hectic schedule, or having nowhere to go may ultimately be a trigger for relapse? If so, you are not alone. The holidays are frequently a time when relapse occurs, but if you take precautions and make use of the following tips, you will be able to get through the holiday season with your sobriety intact.

  1. Take it one day at a time
  2. Every day this holiday season, make sure you have a plan for how you will get through the day without relapse. In addition to getting to a meeting or otherwise engaging in your recovery, map out where you need to be and when, giving yourself enough time to get there, and prepare whatever you will need in advance. Maintaining a calendar as well as a to-do list with items assigned to each day can help you to stay organized, avoid double booking yourself, and ensure you keep your recovery at the center of every day.

  3. Make recovery a priority
  4. In most cases, your day should include a therapy session and/or a 12-Step meeting, plus a few at-home activities that are focused on recovery. You might meditate, for example, write out a gratitude list, or read from a book on recovery or mental wellness – anything to make sure that the structure of your day is informed by the principles of recovery first and foremost.

  5. Eat, sleep, and be merry
  6. Don’t let good self-care fall to the bottom of your to-do list this holiday season. Getting a good night’s sleep and remembering to eat healthfully can help you to keep your energy levels up and your ability to make positive choices in tune. It can be easy to forget about simple things like grabbing a healthy meal or getting to bed at a decent hour, but prioritizing these simple things can make all the difference in your ability to manage stress.

  7. Plan your script
  8. If you are going to be spending time with family members this holiday season or with friends you haven’t seen in a long time, it is likely you will get asked a handful of questions about how you are doing and what you are up to these days. Depending on where you are in your recovery, these may or may not be simple questions to answer, so it is a good idea to have something you can offer up easily and comfortably.

    Similarly, it is a good idea to have a prepared response when you are offered a drink at the homes of people who do not know you are sober.

  9. Do what you can in advance
  10. It is always stressful to remember that you need to bring a food item to a potluck as well as a gift for the gift exchange five minutes before you are supposed to attend a holiday event. Keep your stress levels low by buying a few generic gifts in advance so you always have something on hand and plan for what you will need for different events throughout the season in advance.

  11. Avoid the stressful events
  12. If there are specific events that feel stressful to you for any reason, do what you can to simply drop them from your calendar. Even if it seems that people are expecting you to attend, remember that your sobriety comes first. If taking part will threaten your ability to avoid relapse, it is far better not to go.

  13. Actively lower stress
  14. If it seems like the stress just keeps on coming throughout the holiday season, you can take action to lower your stress on your own terms. You can do this by:

  • Keeping up with your workout schedule throughout the holiday season or at least finding time to go for walks or engage in some level of exercise
  • Turning off your phone for a set amount of time each day to give yourself a break and fully unplug
  • Attending yoga sessions, meditating, practicing tai chi, or otherwise incorporating some mindfulness practice into your day
  • Spending time with good friends and family who do not place expectations on you and are supportive of your recovery

You are not alone when it comes to trying to navigate the holiday season without relapse. Voice what you need to your sober community – whether it is a place to go that is sober and safe or a bunch of people you can call if you need someone to talk to – and ask for help. If you are new to recovery and have not yet developed your sober community, this is a great time to get started. The need to connect with others who need somewhere to go and someone to talk to during the holidays is common among sober communities, and many will reach out to offer you support during the season.

The more you stay focused on recovery and stress reduction during the holidays, the easier it will be to stay clean and sober well into the new year.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Desert Hope Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed ...