Holidays and Drug Relapse: Avoid the Triggers

The holiday season can be difficult for many. While it is meant to be a time of joyous excitement and getting together with friends and family (some of whom are only seen during the holiday season), there are often moments of increased stress and anxiety. For those in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, especially those who have recently completed addiction treatment and have only just returned home, the emotions brought by the holidays can be exceptionally challenging to recovery. 


While the holiday season often comes with an increased risk for relapse, it does not guarantee relapse. If you are currently in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, there are various steps you can take to cope with triggers in a healthy way. Maintaining awareness of potential triggers and knowing how to work through them (or avoid them entirely) can help you stay happy and healthy throughout the holiday season and beyond. 

Why the Holidays Can Be Hard for Recovering Addicts

The holiday season, while joyous, can be a highly triggering time. It is essential for recovering addicts to understand their triggers and safely address them when they arise. Routine is an essential element in recovery. A typical routine often consists of exercise, healthy eating, and attending regularly scheduled meetings (such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous) or therapy sessions with your mental health professional. The holidays often lead to people taking time away from their “normal” routines to prepare for holiday festivities or travel to see friends and family. Consequently, the routine that keeps them grounded in sobriety often falls by the wayside, increasing the chances of relapse. 

Other potentially triggering challenges that sometimes make the holidays difficult for someone in recovery are holiday parties. Whether work-related or a family get together, the holiday season is often booked with functions and festivities that are also loaded with alcohol. If you are new to recovery, this can pose an obvious challenge. Family functions can also be challenging to manage. If your relationships were strained due to the effects of addiction, or if members of your family (and social circles) are triggering, it can be difficult to turn to healthy coping mechanisms. 

How to Manage the Holidays and Potential Relapse

Although the holidays present a unique challenge for someone in recovery, it does not mean the holiday season needs to end in relapse. Below are a variety of tips you can use to help prepare for the holidays while continuing on your journey to sobriety. 

First and likely, most important is to ensure you have a plan. Alcohol is often a part of many holiday celebrations, which leads to stressful and potentially triggering issues. If someone offers you a drink, it is good to know how you will respond. In most cases, a simple “No, thank you” is often enough. You can also choose not to say anything at all. Keep a beverage in your hand (cola or something non-alcoholic) with you throughout the evening. This way, when someone offers you a drink, you already have something in your hand. You can also say “Yes” and ask for something non-alcoholic such as a lemonade or cola. Although people will ask if you want a drink, they aren’t likely to heavily push something alcoholic on you if you ask for what you want. 

Another way to help reduce the chance of triggering situations is to bring a friend or your sponsor along with you. Take a moment to confide in them before arriving at the event, so you are both on the same page. Having someone with you who understands your sobriety and recovery goals can help hold you accountable and support you in difficult situations. It may also be helpful to prepare an exit strategy in case things become too stressful. Prepare a plan B and employ it if needed. 

Rise in Malibu Is Here to Help You With Your Addiction and Recovery

If you are new to recovery and struggle through the holidays, the team at Rise in Malibu is here to help. At our luxury Malibu addiction treatment center, we offer comprehensive addiction treatment to help you achieve and maintain sobriety long-term. Whether you have never been to treatment or have completed treatment and experienced a relapse, sobriety is within reach. Contact us at Rise in Malibu today to learn more about how our programs can help you.

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