8 Tips for Recovery During the Holidays

Tips for Avoiding Holiday Relapse

As the holiday season approaches, many people enjoy the excitement and anticipation. But if you’re in recovery from substance abuse or addiction, this season can be daunting. The stress of handling new situations and social groups may bring anxiety, and even be a source of temptation. Holiday events and parties could open up opportunities for alcohol and drug use, which can spark thoughts of breaking your sobriety.

Reasons for Relapse During the Holidays

  • Holiday Parties: Whether it be with work, family, or other friend groups, at least two or three holiday party invitations will probably pop into your mailbox this season. These get-togethers nearly always include alcohol, unless it’s hosted by your recovery group. In the early stages of your recovery process, events and parties hosting alcohol can be tough to be around. These situations should be approached with caution and proper planning to avoid relapse.
  • Holiday Stress: The consistent and close contact with family during the holidays can also be challenging for those in recovery. Like many people, family situations can cause extra stress and anxiety during the holidays, which could tempt a person in recovery to turn to drugs or alcohol. This is especially the case if substance abuse was your default way of minimizing stress. But there are also other stressors, like financial pressure to buy gifts or pay for travel expenses. All these triggers can be difficult to manage if not addressed beforehand.
  • “It’s Just One Drink”: Many people feel the need to “let loose” during the holidays, which means that those around you are likely to be drinking in social settings. For someone not in recovery, they may be able to have a few drinks the temptation of substance abuse. But that’s not the case for someone in recovery trying to maintain their sobriety. Even one or two drinks for someone in recovery is considered a relapse and could set you back in your addiction cycle.

The holidays may sound even more stressful now, especially if you suffer from co-occurring disorders like social anxiety disorder, which, as studies have shown, can contribute to alcohol use disorder, But don’t worry—with the right planning, strategizing, and support network, you can stay on the path to recovery during the holiday season. Check out the eight tips below to start making your plan.

Tip #1: Take Time for Self-Care Check-ins

Even if you have a sober friend or sponsor with you, it may still feel overwhelming to spend so much time with your family or friends at holiday parties. This is even more true if it’s your first holiday season in recovery. Emotions like anxiety, anger, frustration, panic, or fear may arise. These are understandable and natural, but it is important to keep an eye on such emotions since they can lead to relapse if unaddressed. It’s important to take time to yourself and to check in with how you’re feeling. Self-care means taking a moment to take a deep breath and assess what’s going on so you can take the next steps with a clear head.

Tip #2: Prepare Ahead of Time

One of the most important aspects of recovery is making a plan and sticking to it. This goes for holiday planning, too! Make sure to maintain a sense of routine during the holidays, including scheduling time for your 12-step or other support meetings. Make your therapy appointments strategically, maybe before a big holiday party or just afterwards. Planning ahead can also look like prepping an “exit plan” if you feel uncomfortable, which can look like preparing an excuse that allows you to leave early if need be. You can also invite a sober friend or sponsor to go with you to a specific party—nothing beats that extra support system.

Tip #3: Address Complex Emotions

In addition to general stress, the holidays come with complex emotions for many people. Family events that host a variety of personality types and oftentimes emotional baggage from past experiences with family. Coming face to face with these sometimes draining situations can be extra difficult for a person in recovery. Being honest about your emotions and addressing them with the proper support network is one of the healthiest ways to avoid relapse—the path to wholeness and recovery doesn’t stop just because it’s a national holiday.

Tip #4: Reach Out for Support

Once you’ve taken time to do a self-check-in and address what’s happening, don’t hesitate to reach out for a supportive hand. A helping support may look like calling your sponsor, a trusted loved one, or a sober friend. Reach out to a person who can understand where you’re coming from and can sympathize with what you’re experiencing. Moreover, keeping your support networks like attending a group therapy session or support group meeting during the holiday season will give you that extra energy you need to make it through the tough days.

Tip #5: Be Open and Transparent

It is important to be transparent with friends and family about your sobriety plan and what it looks like to be an addict in recovery. This openness about your journey can assist them in understanding why you choose not to drink or use other substances, despite the context of a “holiday party.” The more allies you can make by being open about your path to recovery and how they can help support you, the better!

Tip #6: Take Time to Serve Others

A helpful way to de-stress during the holidays and channel you energy into something good is to serve and help others. Some examples may include:

  • Volunteering at a soup kitchen or a food bank
  • Volunteering at a shelter for animals
  • Helping with toy-drive that gathers used toys for less fortunate children

Giving back means preparing ahead of time, investing in the future, and getting your mind off of your own struggles for a few hours.

Tip #7: Keep Track of the Drink in Your Hand

In a crowded party environment, it’s easy to lose track of your drink. Make sure to order your own non-alcoholic drinks, watch how they’re being made, and keep of it once it’s in your hand. If you do accidentally take a sip of a drink that has alcohol in it, this is not a relapse. It is, however, very important to stop drinking it as soon as you realize. Then, you should reach out to someone in your support network and explain what happened. That trusted person can help walk you through the next steps of your recovery, even if you hit a little speed-bump.

Tip #8: Be Okay with Staying “No”

During the holidays, there are some events and get-togethers that are worth attending. Other parties, however, may not be worth the stress. If you know there is a certain someone, place, or thing that may cause you to be triggered, don’t be afraid to say “no.” If you’re not sure, ask someone in your support group who can help you weigh what the best decision is for you.

To learn more about how to start your healing journey at Impact Recovery, get in touch with a member of our team here