Corporate Office:
2101 Magnolia Avenue South, Suite 518
Birmingham, AL 35205

Holiday Season Relapse Prevention

The holiday season puts pressure on people to indulge and sometimes relapse. Maintaining a sober lifestyle becomes more difficult, especially for those in early recovery. Take action before cravings start, and you’ll have a greater chance of preventing relapse during the holiday season. These five steps will help you manage the stress and pressure of holidays. 

Acknowledge the Risk

Many people have difficulties coping during the holiday season. Three of these reasons include a non-sober environment, high levels of stress, and unrealistic expectations. 

A non-sober environment is often the place that people in recovery find themselves in every holiday. They are surrounded by friends and family who are wrapped up in the holiday spirit. This means parties, music, and oftentimes, alcohol.

Another side effect of the holidays is a high level of stress. This stress occurs when the worries of shopping, cooking, and visiting family are all piled on top of everyday life.

Finally, the third reason one could fall from a life of recovery to relapse is unrealistic expectations. People often find themselves believing that this year will be better than last or even perfect. However, more often than not, this is not the case.  Disappointment in this fact can lead to an emotional trigger and eventually relapse.

Have a Plan

Prepare for the holidays and know what to do before things go wrong. In order to do this, you should ask yourself important questions like these:

  • Why?
    • Do I really need to go?
    • Am I avoiding something or someone?
  • Where?
    • Am I ready to handle this type of environment?
  • Who?
    • Can I bring someone to help me?
    • Will anyone compromise my sobriety?
  • What?
    • What are possible triggers?
    • What’s my “Escape Plan” if I feel a craving coming on?
  • When?
    • How long will I stay?
    • When will I leave?

Practice Saying No

…and not just to drugs and alcohol. Activities and people may pressure you into situations that you don’t want to be in. Make sure that you are prepared to say no, even if it may be hurtful or awkward. Your sobriety should be the most important thing to you. In order to maintain it, you can say things such as:

  • I won’t be able to make it
  • It’s not a good idea for me
  • I’ve got too much on my plate
  • I appreciate you thinking of me, but…

Use Your Support System

Meetings, sponsors, coaches, and counselors all understand what you are going through better than your friends and family. Holidays can be hard, especially earlier on in sobriety. During these times, you should lean harder into your support programs. They are here to help and will help make sure that you can get through the season with your sobriety. Here are some Do’s and Dont’s that can help you with this:


  • Go to more meetings than usual
  • Tell loved ones the importance of meetings
  • Call your sponsor
  • Reach out for help


  • Skip out on meetings
  • Rely solely on family and friends
  • Ignore sponsor’s calls
  • Avoid talking about cravings

Find the Holiday Spirit

Look beyond the traditions of the season and discover the real purpose and joy of the holidays. This is an important matter when you are trying to avoid a holiday relapse. You can do three things to discover the real purpose of the holidays: to give thanks, share love, and celebrate beginnings.

The first way to discover the real purpose of the holidays is to give thanks. Find gratitude in every moment, even the chaotic ones. If you can’t seem to find gratitude during tough situations, you should try keeping a list of your blessings in your pocket to help remind you of what you should be thankful for.

Another thing that you can do is to share love instead of things physical presents. The holiday season of giving is so much more than the gifts under a tree. Spend time, not money, with those who encourage, inspire and support you. Build a stronger relationship with these people and show them the love and appreciation that you have for them.

Lastly, you need to celebrate your beginnings. With each day comes a reason to celebrate sobriety. Focus on how you got to where you are and on all of the things that make you happy to be there. Let your joy be contagious to all this holiday season.

You don’t need a Christmas miracle to stay sober during the holidays. If at any point you need help please call 1-877-577-0012 for support.

Related Content:

ARTICLE: Is it a Slip or Relapse?

ARTICLE: The Most Important Gift You Can Give This Season