How to Avoid a Holiday Relapse

holiday sobriety

One of the most difficult parts of recovery is the reality of relapse. Typically, between 40-60 percent of people will relapse within their first year of recovery. While those numbers decrease the more years we are in recovery, it is possible for anyone to relapse at any time. It is what we work to protect ourselves against every single day.

Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, the average American drinks as much alcohol as they do the whole rest of the year. That is a 100 percent increase. Which means that the likelihood of relapse is probably at least double for us as well. 

With all of that alcohol flowing, all of the parties and social engagements we are invited to, especially family gatherings, how do we maintain integrity in our recovery? How do we manage what are often stressful family events, the pressures of time, money and more at this time of the year without turning to drugs or alcohol for help? 

Be Gentle with Ourselves

The holidays are hard for everyone. Exponentially hard for us. So let’s be kind to ourselves. We can double-down on our spiritual habits, especially prayer and meditation. The holidays are a great time to evaluate the past year, so we can make a list of all our accomplishments, highlighting our progress in recovery. It is a time to be grateful, and along with acknowledging ourselves, we can acknowledge those people in our lives who have helped us reach this point.

Remember it is okay to feel, it is okay to cry. It is also okay to feel joy and to laugh. If we are alone, we don’t need to be lonely. Think about what we would like to hear from someone, in that moment, if we start to feel lonely and then reach out and tell someone else that. Loneliness disappears when we reach beyond ourselves and create joy for others.

Keep our Wellness Schedule

The old adage is “Eat, drink and be merry.” Perhaps around the holidays, we should use “Eat, exercise, and be wary.” It is twice as important to keep our wellness habits around the holidays. Imagine if we were diabetic and we failed to eat or ate poorly. Addiction is a disease just like diabetes, and we are more susceptible to substance cravings and therefore relapse if we are careless about our wellness.

Exercise needs to be a regular habit for us and is another way to fortify us mentally and physically. Additionally, it helps us to stay on our schedule and keeps us meaningfully occupied. Even if the holidays are very busy, our wellness habits need to be the first priority. Not only to keep us healthy but also to show ourselves and others in our lives that our health matters. We matter.

Find Alternative Events

If there is an event or situation that we know will be a trigger for us, we can politely decline it. Yes, even work or family events. Our health and recovery are far more important than anything else. If we feel we must go, we should make a plan. We can bring something that we like to drink, or practice declining offers of substances. It is also a great idea to set an alarm for ourselves and leave an event earlier rather than later.

The safer bet is to just to find something else to do where we won’t be tempted to drink or use. There are so many things going on at the holidays, it shouldn’t be that hard to find a community event where substances are not even served. Or we can plan our own event – find some recovery friends and have them over, go out to dinner, or even just see a movie or have a game night together. We can make our own new holiday traditions and not risk throwing away all of our hard work by relapsing.

Reach for Support

We know when we get to that point. We may be down, lonely, or just flat out too emotionally exhausted to resist the cravings. Whatever the case, we can always ask for help. We can call our sponsor, a friend, family member or someone who loves us. It might also be helpful to organize a holiday support group, in addition to our normal meetings. Get some friends from recovery to help organize a group from November through January, and meet more than once a week, if needed. Being fiercely vigilant with ourselves and our recovery will bless our lives as well as the lives of others.


People tend to be a little selfish at the holidays. Or they drop some change in a can and feel like they have done a good deed. But we can roll up ourselves and truly get involved in our community and give our time and our hearts. This is rewarding for us and for others and is like a protective shield for us to keep us well.

The holidays can be a magical time,
or they can be the catalyst for relapse.

We can prepare ourselves and strengthen our bodies and minds, taking each day as it comes. With the help of The Bougainvilla House, you will get you the individual help you need along with group and family therapy sessions to help you build a new community of health and happiness. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, don’t fight it alone.

Call Now: 954-764-7337