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Maintaining Recovery During the Holidays


Maintaining addiction recovery during the holidays can be a challenging feat, but it is not impossible. There are many methods to help strengthen recovery and increase the chances of staying sober.

Understanding Recovery

Recovery means someone has been sober, or clean, from their addiction for a period of time. Typically, recovery starts after someone completes a treatment program for their specific addiction. During the recovery phase of addiction, there is still a lot of work to do to maintain sobriety, though. It’s not an easy path, and it takes determination to stay on it. 

The Importance of Maintaining Recovery During the Holidays

The holidays can bring up a lot of different emotions. Between the celebratory parties, family stress or drama, the pressure of buying gifts, or cooking large meals, and juggling sobriety, it can feel impossible to stay on the recovery path. Maintaining recovery during the holiday season becomes a job in itself. 

Why are Relapses Common During the Holidays?

A lot of those that step off the path, do so during the holidays. It is a time when drinking in excess becomes the norm, and inhibitions are lower than usual. So keeping your guard up, and having a plan in place, can really help to stay on the path for people in recovery.

There are several themes in the reasons for holiday relapses that we can explore together. 

Common Holiday Triggers

Common holiday triggers are things that can trigger a strong emotion, which can cause a relapse. Triggers can be positive, or negative emotions, situations, or even people. Sometimes a person can trigger us to think about a time we used and remind us of the “fun times” we had. Emotions, like immense joy for instance, can be a trigger just as much as devastation. 

Knowing ourselves enough to recognize we are being triggered is key to being able to refocus, and redirect ourselves before it gets to a relapse situation.  

Changes to Routine

Holidays cause many changes to routines. Work hours can fluctuate, and we may be required to attend different events throughout the season. When we are new to our recovery journey, it’s routines that can help us to stay on the path. 

Routines with scheduled times for self-care, and necessities like eating meals, or working can be beneficial to maintaining recovery in our everyday lives. But it’s when those routines get interrupted, or changed, that our recovery journeys can start to falter. 

Holiday Parties

Holiday parties can be so much fun! Those same parties can also be terrifying for someone on a recovery path, though. If we are in recovery from drugs or alcohol, parties may seem like the last place we should be.  

Parties usually include some sort of alcohol, a variety of foods, and mingling with people we aren’t around daily. Learning how to navigate these situations is doable, with the right tools. 

Family Stress

Families, as we know, come in all shapes and sizes. Families also come with their own set of baggage, trauma, and stress no matter how functional they may be. If we are in addiction recovery, chances are, our family ties have been strained at some point. 

Weeding through the emotions that come with being around family during the holidays takes a special skill set that is not always intuitively known. It takes work, and determination to get through holiday family gatherings with sobriety intact. And still, some of us may suffer the holiday blues from being around our families, even with the best laid plans. 

A How-To Guide to Holiday Recovery Success

Having the right strategies, and tools to get through the holiday season could be the difference between staying on the recovery path, or stepping off of it. Knowing it will be a difficult season is step 1 in maintaining sobriety during the holidays. Step 2 is coming up with your own version of “Holiday Survival 101”. 

Have Pre-Planned Responses

During gatherings, people seem to love to be nosey. They ask many questions that are not always comfortable, or safe to answer. Having pre-planned responses to questions we may anticipate hearing is a great way to feel prepared going into a situation you may be nervous about. 

Not only is having pre-planned answers to questions helpful, but we can also prepare responses for when someone offers us alcohol, or drugs at gatherings. Simply saying “no” should be enough, but we all know that’s not usually the case.

For some reason, it seems to be socially acceptable to press when people deny a drink or smoke. An alcohol addiction, or even someone who partakes in heavy drinking, can be very triggering. Having a response or two that elaborate a bit more may be helpful to keep our privacy, but also get our point across without having to be asked more than once. 

Some examples of pre-planned responses to being offered a drink could be:

  • “No thank you, I’m driving tonight.”
  • “I appreciate the offer, however, I’m not drinking anymore”
  • “That was nice of you to offer, but drinking isn’t a healthy choice for me.”

If someone offers us drugs or puts us in a situation we aren’t comfortable in, we could say something like:

  • “I don’t feel comfortable with that anymore.”
  • “I know we used to do that together, however, I am on a path of healing right now.”
  • “No judgment, but I need to distance myself from this situation.” 

Coming up with our own if-thens can help to feel somewhat in control of a situation we have little control over. 

Bring an Accountability Partner

An accountability partner can be a friend, someone we know from a 12-step meeting or a family member. This person just needs to be on the same page with us about what we need from them. 

Having a conversation with them prior to any event we attend is key to making this partnership work for our recovery. Make sure to lay out what our goals are, and how they are to intervene if they see us straying from our goals. 

Create an Exit Strategy

An exit strategy is an important way to get out of somewhere quickly, without making a fuss about it. Knowing where the doors are, and if our car is blocked in is only part of the strategy you need to make. 

The other part consists of a keyword we can tell our accountability partner, so they know it’s time. Another thing we should do when making an exit strategy is to have some prepared statements ready to go if we feel like we need to leave. 

Know Where to Find a Local Meeting

Knowing the times and places of 12-step meetings, or any other recovery-type meeting is a great thing to keep you calm. Having a place to go to if things do get out of hand, or make us feel like we may relapse, is equally as important as any other part of our holiday success plan. 

Relapses Still Happen, Even to the Most Prepared

A relapse is not the end of a recovery journey. It is merely a step off a very long road. If a relapse happens, we can’t beat ourselves up too badly. The more we get down on ourselves, the harder it’ll be to pick ourselves back up and start on the recovery road again.

Keep in mind that 40% of people in addiction recovery programs will relapse at some point in their journey. So knowing we are not alone can bring comfort to us in a difficult time. 

What to do if there is a Holiday Relapse

If we relapse during the holiday season, knowing what to do next can be helpful. Calling Agape Treatment Center is a great step in the right direction on the road back to recovery. 

Agape Treatment Center has many different programs. Specific programs to treat many different addictions, as well as mental health treatments can ensure the whole person is treated, not just their addiction. 

Call today to answer any questions you may have, so you can be prepared!

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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