The holidays are a time for joy and celebration, but at the same time they can also be filled with stressful situations and prompt feelings of loneliness. The stress and loneliness felt during this time can be triggers for addiction relapse. Whether you are newly in recovery or have been sober for years, it is important to be aware of the issues that can crop up during this time of the year. Read on to discover how to identify relapse triggers during the holidays and avoid certain behaviors that can lead to addiction relapse.

Why Are the Holidays Especially Hard for Addicts?

The holiday season can be difficult for addicts for different reasons. Some of the same problems that everyone faces during this time can be a bigger problem or more intense for addicts to get through. Issues like money and visiting with family add to other everyday stressors that one might be facing while in recovery. In addition, holiday parties where alcohol is served can be triggers for addicts. Most people tend to drink more during the holidays and at holiday celebrations; the average person, co-worker, or even family member may not realize that offering “just one drink” can lead to a complete relapse. On the contrary, if you live a different lifestyle now that you are sober or in recovery, you may feel lonely and miss old friends that you have since removed from your life. Loneliness can hit anyone pretty hard during the holidays. For some, the New Year and New Year’s resolutions can become added stressors, reminders of pressure, and attempts at new beginnings.

How to Spot Signs of Drug Relapse

Part of our recovery program at Cornerstone includes relapse prevention from the beginning. During sessions with a therapist or group, you can learn to spot the behaviors that lead to negative activities and replace those bad behaviors with positive ones. During the holidays, it is important to be vigilant in recognizing the signs of relapse. They can be feelings or actions, including the actions of others. If you already know some of your own triggers, you can avoid those types of situations or call a trusted, sober friend to talk about the feelings that you have during this time. Keep in close contact with your therapist or loved ones that can help you identify and avoid relapse triggers. Plan ahead of time what you will do if you run into a situation that might be trouble for you. Knowing what you will do in advance will give you a course of action and empower you to control your own situation.

Develop a Plan for Surviving the Holidays

Even if you do not anticipate a problem during the holidays, it is important to still recognize the high frequency of relapse during this time and have a plan to recognize negative triggers and avoid potentially risky situations. Here are 5 ways you can plan ahead to survive the holidays and stay sober:

  1. Rehearse Answering Awkward Questions. Especially if this is your first holiday gathering sober, you might need to be prepared to answer uncomfortable questions. Some questions might be innocent inquiries from loved ones who truly care and other questions might seem more like an inquisition. Practice answering questions with your counselor, therapist, friend, or at AA and NA meetings. Don’t be afraid to decline to answer questions, too.
  2. Ask for Extra Support. Don’t be ashamed to ask for extra help or support during the holidays.
  3. Make Plans Not to Be Alone. If you are going to be alone during the holidays, make plans to do something. If you belong to AA or NA, reach out to other meeting attendees to make plans. Reach out to friends or family and let them know you would like to get together. Alternatives include being in public places with others at holiday events, the mall, or even the movies.
  4. Have an “Escape” Plan. Sure, that might sound drastic, but what we mean is that if you are attending a holiday party or an event, make sure you can leave at any time. If the situation becomes uncomfortable for you, be sure to have your own vehicle or a plan for public transportation to leave if you don’t want to stay. Don’t feel obligated to stay if you are in a situation you don’t want to be in that could trigger a relapse.
  5. Find an Alternative Non-Alcoholic Drink. If you have a drink in your hand, others who are unaware of your situation are less likely to ask if you want a drink. You should also come up with and rehearse a standard response as to why you aren’t drinking alcoholic beverages. If you want everyone to know that you are sober, a simple “I don’t drink anymore” is short, to the point, and very effective. If you are not wanting to share your sobriety, you can always use statements like:
    • I am not drinking tonight.
    • I am on medication and cannot have alcohol.
    • I am the designated driver tonight.

Learn About Relapse Prevention During the Holidays

The rehab programs at Cornerstone Recovery Center incorporate relapse prevention planning into all of our recovery treatment programs. Our treatment and housing facilities maintain a warm, welcoming, and caring environment for our clients and their families. If you would like to learn more about our Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in Ft. Lauderdale, call Cornerstone Recovery Center at 888-711-0354 or contact us online.