Tips on Staying Sober During the Holiday Season


While holidays are a fun and wonderful time for most people, for those who are in pain, grieving, lonely, and recovering from substance abuse, it can be a devastating trigger that can cause them to relapse. According to a 2018 study, drug and alcohol relapse rates spike at 150 percent during Christmas and New Year, and this is usually caused by the following:

  • Interpersonal conflicts between family members, especially since it’s a time when people go back home to celebrate with their parents and siblings.
  • Financial strain and gift stress, since the holidays can be an economically taxing season for most people.
  • Holiday blues, because people in recovery are usually reminded of broken relationships or their traumatic childhoods. Those who live alone are more likely to be reminded of when they see people on social media having healthy relationships and going on fun gatherings with other people. The cold might also be a contributing factor.

Now that we’re in the midst of the holidays, our compulsive and harmful behavior might rear its ugly head. If you have a history of substance abuse, have gone to rehab for alcoholics, and are fighting for sobriety, here are some tips to help you stay clean during the holidays.

Holiday Season

Make a plan in advance.

Christmas may be over, but New Year is still upon us, and Valentine’s Day will come after. If you could stay sober for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, that is a feat worth celebrating, and you must pat yourself on the back. However, if you fell off the wagon, dust yourself off, and remember that it’s not over. Don’t be too quick to give up on yourself or abandon the fight. New Year is around the corner, which is arguably a much more party-heavy holiday, and you can still make advanced plans to ensure that you don’t relapse during this time.

Create a plan to help you escape the temptation during this holiday. Keep your sponsor or sober companion on speed dial. Make sure you have an emergency contact if you find yourself at a party and need someone to pick you up. Plan some fun activities at home, so you’re not tempted to attend some New Year’s rave. In this case, prevention is better than cure too.

Don’t neglect your meetings.

If you have been attending NA and AA meetings for the longest time, you need to do so even more during the holidays. Now more than ever, it will benefit you to interact with people who are also struggling with the same things so that you can lean hard on each other for support during this challenging time of the year. You are not alone in your struggles, and you need to be reminded of that, especially during this season when loneliness and isolation can feel the most overwhelming.

Know your triggers

One thing that might surprise you about the holidays is just how much you will run into people or something that would remind you of when you were drinking or using. This is especially true if you’re going back to your hometown for the holidays or if you are attending plenty of reunions and gatherings. Places, people, and even songs can be external stimuli that might trigger your mind into going down a dark path.

Knowing your triggers is one of the most critical steps in relapse prevention. You can combat this by telling people you trust in advance that this might happen. Suppose you have a trusted friend or family member that knows your history. In that case, you can say to them that seeing a specific person or going to a particular place might trigger you to reach for the bottle or call your dealer again, so ask them for help in keeping your head on straight.

Volunteer at a neutral or safe place

One way to help you keep your mind on the right path is by extending help to those who need it the most. Idleness and boredom are your enemies during this season, so raise a helping hand to others during your free time. Consider volunteering at an animal shelter or a nursing home to fill your time with meaningful activities—somewhere you know you won’t be triggered.

Staying sober for the rest of your life may be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Set yourself up for success, know your triggers, and ask people you love and trust for help. Your sobriety and long-term recovery are worth the fight—you are worth the fight.