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Holiday Addiction Triggers: Tips for Staying Sober

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Most people look forward to the holidays and anticipate celebrating with friends or family.  But, for people in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, the holidays can be challenging.  Holiday gatherings can spark emotional connections to their substance of choice. In many cases, these holiday addiction triggers lead to relapse.

If you’re in recovery and are stressed about the upcoming holidays, we have some suggestions to help you cope with triggers so you can enjoy the festive season.

What Are the Most Common Holiday Addiction Triggers?

Holiday Addiction TriggersAnything that tempts you to engage in substance use during the holidays is a holiday addiction trigger.  Attending parties where booze or drugs are plentiful is something that can derail your sobriety.  

Triggers can be big or small and may pop up when you least expect them.  So, here are some of the most common holiday addiction triggers and how you can effectively manage them to prevent relapse.  

The most common holiday addiction triggers include, but are not limited to:

Seasonal Celebrations

For many people, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations mean attending social events that promote alcohol.  Typically, Americans celebrate over the course of six weeks between November and January.  This extended socializing provides many opportunities to consume alcohol or drugs.  It can also cause high-stress levels for individuals who are in recovery.  No matter how good your intentions, all it takes is one glass of booze to undo months of work in rehab and recovery.

Family Conflicts

Many individuals experience some level of family-related trauma.  However, during the holidays when everyone gets together to celebrate, resentment can complicate things.  During these moments of tension, it is tempting to use substances like drugs or alcohol as a coping tool.  For those in recovery, this type of escape mechanism can be the beginning of a relapse.

Disrupted Schedules

During recovery, keeping to a routine helps people avoid boredom and create stability in their lives.  However, holiday planning, shopping, and socializing can disrupt their routine significantly.  Your efforts to maintain sobriety can be quickly derailed when your routine is disrupted.

Holiday Stress and Anxiety

Studies show that most people with substance use disorders also struggle with mental health problems.  The most common mental disorders that accompany substance use include depression, anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem.  During the holidays, all of the activity and financial worries can leave these individuals feeling overwhelmed, thereby triggering a relapse.

How to Manage Holiday Addiction Triggers

If you’re in recovery from substance use, the holidays don’t have to be a trigger for relapse.  You can maintain sobriety and enjoy the holidays with these helpful suggestions.  

Know Your Triggers

People in recovery respond differently to triggers, and each person’s triggers may be different from another’s.  So, it’s important this time of year especially, to know your potential holiday addiction triggers.   Take the time to think about the situations, things, people, or environments that you associate with substance use.  Knowing what to expect will go a long way in helping you stay on track and prevent relapse.

Say No to Trigger Situations

Taking part in events that trigger cravings could undermine your sobriety, which you have worked hard to achieve.  If you’re invited to an event that promotes drugs or drinking, it’s okay to turn down the invitation.  You are responsible for your sobriety, so you must do all you can to avoid relapsing.

Have an Escape Plan

If you don’t want to say no to an invitation, plan ahead to leave early if the situation becomes difficult for you.  Take your own car so you can leave early if necessary.  Or, take a sober friend with you to the event to keep you from feeling overwhelmed or conspicuous.

Be Aware of Your Emotions

The inability to manage emotions often causes people to misuse drugs or alcohol.  During the holidays, feelings such as guilt, anger, shame, and sadness can trigger substance use.  If you feel these emotions during the holidays, don’t hesitate to reach out for support.

Reach Out for Support

Staying sober during the holidays can be emotionally and physically taxing.  If you feel alone or overwhelmed during the holidays, try attending extra self-help or recovery group meetings.  Most of the recovery groups hold seasonal, sober parties where people in recovery can enjoy themselves without being triggered.

Volunteer for Community Service

Volunteering to serve others during the holidays will shift your focus and help you feel connected to others.  Service to the community is a great way to avoid feelings of loneliness or hopelessness during the holidays.

Design for Change Wishes You a Safe and Sober Holiday Season

We understand that the holidays can be difficult for someone in recovery.  With this in mind, we create treatment programs that help clients learn how to cope with triggers and prevent relapse.  It might be necessary for you to spend more time in rehab if you relapse during the holidays, so let Design for Change help you get back on track.

To learn more about our programs, contact us by phone, email, or online to speak with a treatment advisor.  We will conduct a confidential assessment and recommend a treatment plan based on your situation.  


Sources: – What Is the “Trigger” of Addiction? – 12-Step Interventions and Mutual Support Programs for Substance Use Disorders: An Overview

Holiday Addiction Triggers: Tips for Staying Sober