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Holiday Triggers and Tips to avoid a holiday relapse

3 minute read

Twinkle lights all around, holiday songs playing on the radio, gatherings of friends and family… what’s not to love about the holiday season?!?!

It is, as the song goes, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” It is also a time of year when those who suffer from substance use disorder are more prone to relapse. Many treatment centers report seeing a spike in admissions shortly after the holiday season. While getting help is important, staying clean and sober is something we all wish for in recovery and, can be achieved if you can identify your triggers.

Holiday Work Parties

A fun-filled night with coworkers that turns into the hangover of the century and embarrassing stories to be told on Monday morning. Raise your hand if this sounds familiar? While it’s true that holidays parties can be centered around alcohol and drugs, they don’t have to be.

Tip – Plan before you go.

Give yourself an allotted amount of time to attend the party and be social but, schedule an obligation right after. Meet up with someone in your support system who will hold you accountable or, go to a meeting. If it seems like a bad situation all around, don’t attend.

Giving Gifts

So you have 6 nieces, 5 nephews, 4 brothers, 3 sisters, 2 parents, and a partridge in a pear tree! That’s a lot of gifts to buy and the stress of that alone can push one over the edge. How are you going to buy all of those presents and still pay the bills?


You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on everyone! You aren’t Bill Gates and even if you are, you still don’t have to break the bank because it’s the holidays. I’ve had times in my life where I was so panicked to buy presents that it made me feel completely depressed and want to avoid Christmas altogether. So, here are a few things I have done.

  1. I started a grab bag with my family so, we set a dollar amount that everyone is comfortable with, and I have that person to buy for. It is optional and some years some people have chosen not to participate and, that’s ok. There is no shame in keeping yourself in a good financial spot.
  2. I got creative when it came to gift-giving. My sister asked for a spa gift card and, I happen to be trained in massage. So instead of spending $100 plus dollars, I was able to give her a great gift for free, in the comfort of her own home and, she enjoyed it even more because she didn’t have to get up and leave after.

See More Gift-Giving Ideas


While you may love your family members, some may not be as supportive of your recovery. Some may doubt your commitment, and some may be jealous because you are where they want to be. Maybe it’s just the actual family member’s home that makes you feel triggered because it’s a place you used to use. For others, it’s the lack of family. Loss of a loved one can be felt so strongly during the holidays and the sadness of not having them can lead you into poor decisions.


Family is a hard one to navigate. Whether you have them or don’t, it can be the biggest trigger of all. If your anxiety is building before a Christmas or Chanukah meal, that may be a clear indicator that there is an issue that needs to be dealt with. Being open and honest with your loved ones is best and you can deal with family time the same way we discussed dealing with a holiday work party. Make a plan before you go, see someone in your support system after or, don’t go and make your own holiday plans. Enjoy the holidays in a way that makes you feel good. The holidays can be a trying time for your recovery but, they don’t have to be. Keep yourself on track by identifying your triggers, making a plan, and leaning on your support system because that is what they are there for. This is YOUR holiday season and your recovery is the greatest gift you will ever give yourself.

Happy Holidays!

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