If you are in recovery from addiction, the upcoming holidays may have you worried.  You aren’t sure about your ability to remain sober if you attend gatherings that serve alcoholic beverages.  Of course, you aren’t the only one struggling with this dilemma.  The fear of relapse during the holidays will distress thousands of recovering individuals in the next several weeks.

What Causes People to Relapse During the Holidays?

To help you avoid giving in to temptation at holiday events, think about the things that may contribute to a holiday relapse.

For instance, some of the causes can include:

Family conflicts –

All families have their issues.  Some of the issues result in pent-up emotions such as frustration, anger, or hurt.  When everyone gets together during the holidays, the old feelings can surface again, causing yet another tension-filled situation.  Many people reach for an alcoholic beverage to help them cope with the tension.  Of course, these family conflicts can make it difficult for a person in recovery to stay on track and resist relapse during the holidays.

Financial issues –

Someone who has been in rehab for several months may not have substantial finances to buy the gifts they’d like to.  As a result, the person becomes distressed or anxious about the holidays.  When coupled with financial stress, these feelings can be a trigger for relapse.

Holiday blues –

Loneliness and melancholy are two of the most common relapse triggers during the holidays.  People who are in recovery may be sad about the broken relationships brought on by their addiction.  When the holidays prompt memories of happier times, the individual is more susceptible to depression which can trigger a relapse.

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Tips for Staying on Track During the Holidays

You worked hard in rehab and doing your best to be a sober, productive member of your family and community.  So, if you’re feeling stressed about relapse during the holidays, try these suggestions:

  • Plan ahead – You’re vulnerable now and need to protect your sobriety.  So, before going to a social gathering, have an escape plan for leaving early, take your own non-alcoholic beverage, and take a sober friend or relative with you.
  • Maintain your composure – At family gatherings, it’s not unusual for someone to voice their resentment or anger about your past.  If this happens, do not get drawn into an argument with the individual.  If necessary, leave before the confrontation escalates or you reach for a drink to help you calm down.
  • Find sober ways to celebrate – If you need to be socially involved during the holidays, find sober events to attend.  Local AA chapters, churches, or other similar groups often sponsor alcohol-free holiday celebrations.  Or, get together with several sober friends and plan your own event.
  • Attend support groups – Go to an extra meeting or two during the holidays.  Also, make sure someone will be available if you need to call for immediate support.  Plan to attend a group meeting in person if possible.  If not, online groups are available.
  • Focus on others – Volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter, go on outings with groups that include children, spend time with an elderly neighbor. When you spread compassion and cheer with others, you enrich your own life.
  • Reconnect with your spirituality – This doesn’t have to be about religion.  Spirituality takes many forms.  Find ways to reconnect that are meaningful and beneficial to you.  A walk in the woods, yoga, meditation, or listening to music can be relaxing and help you feel connected to something bigger than yourself.

What to Do if You Relapse During the Holidays

Studies show that relapses are more frequent during the holidays.  So, whatever the reason, if you relapse, don’t think of it as a failure.  How you respond is the important part.

Your best option after relapse is to re-enter treatment for a while to reinforce your commitment.  It’s also possible that a different program or facility will provide better results for you.  Why?  Because not all rehabs offer the same methodologies or philosophies.  What works for one individual may not be adequate for another.

At New Beginnings, we understand that relapse during the holidays is not something you planned.  If you have relapsed and need to get back into treatment, please contact us today.  Or, if you know someone who needs treatment, encourage them to contact us right away.

We wish you and your family a sober, joyous holiday season this year and the years to come.


  • sasc-dbq.org – Living in Recovery and Avoiding Relapse During the Holidays