Avoiding Relapse During the Holidays

Avoiding Relapse During the Holidays

The holidays are always filled with expectations and pressures that can make it difficult for those recovering from addiction of any type. While the hope is to remain sober throughout the holidays, reality shows that relapses during the holidays is all too common.

For anyone concerned about the potential relapse of themselves or a loved one during this time of year, it is important to know what signs to look for to prevent this happening.


Is It More Common to Relapse During the Holidays or Special Occasions?

Holidays and special occasions add stresses to life that can unfortunately encourage a relapse. Both events are filled with familial contact, which may be uncomfortable for relationships that have yet to be mended. Emotional memories attached to a recovering addict’s hometown prior to getting help for addiction can also be unhelpful triggers for addicts.

Many holidays are statistically linked with in an increase in drinking. Work celebrations can bring alcohol-fueled office parties, and holidays like New Year’s Eve encourage people to go out and party. Being in these environments can be extremely harmful for recovering addicts. The drinking and partying culture surrounding holidays can make these times of year hard for those trying to stay sober and away from temptation.

Creating a healthy environment for yourself, friends and loved ones is essential to getting through the holiday season without relapsing. For information on how to support your loved one, New Life House is here to answer any questions you may have.


What Are the More Common Holidays for Relapse?

Certain holidays can be more difficult than others depending on a variety of triggers. So which holidays more commonly bring relapses in addicts?



Christmas is one holiday that is especially trying for former addicts. There are a lot of different pressures associated with Christmas time including:

  • Contact with extended family members and old friends
  • Gift giving expectations
  • Increased encouragement of drinking
  • An emotional expectation to be joyful

It may be hard for some to be around a large amount of extended family members with pressure to act merry, sociable and present themselves well. The expectation of giving gifts around Christmas time can also be stressful for people recovering from the financial repercussions of addiction.


New Year

New Year is one of the hardest holidays for recovering addicts, and statistically brings about one of the highest relapse rates of the year. There is a large drinking culture associated with this holiday, which can be difficult for those trying to live a sober life. There is a lot of pressure to party and to “fit in,” and many addicts feel pressure to drink or take drugs in order to accomplish this.



Birthdays aren’t always a happy celebration for people, sober or not. A day where all of the focus is on one individual can bring a lot of stress. Many recovering addicts may also feel that they are not deserving of nice gifts as they are still reconciling with their own personal self-worth. This special occasion can cause feelings of guilt for recovering addicts that may be difficult to cope with.


4th of July

The fourth of July, like most holidays, also sees an increased expectation to drink. This is another occasion where recovering addicts may feel pressured to consume alcohol in order to fit in. It’s been found that veterans with PTSD can also experience a spike of anxiety during this holiday, which can cause the use of alcohol or drugs.

All of these holidays are statistically linked with an increase in relapse for addicts. At New Life House, we specialize in providing you with steps you can take to help your loved one through these holidays and provide them with much needed support.


Common Relapse Triggers to Be Aware of During the Holidays

First, it is important to understand what an addiction relapse trigger is.

A trigger is anything that brings up feelings and thoughts regarding addiction. These can vary from person to person. Triggers can be a person, place, event, or thing that cause an addict to think about drugs. This can lead to an addict seeking out the drug and relapsing.

There are many common triggers that occur around the holidays. These include:


Financial struggles

Addicts can experience financial instability as they recover, from paying back debts to funding counselling. The inability to travel or buy nice gifts for loved ones can often cause addicts a large amount of stress and shame, triggering them.


Shift in normal routine

Having a daily routine is imperative for people who are going through recovery. The holiday season often brings a lot of change in routine as people get days off of work, travel, and go out more frequently. This can cause distractions for addicts, and straying from their routine can become a trigger.


Being around other people drinking or using drugs

Addicts may feel pressured to partake in drinking during holiday celebrations as they are surrounded by temptation and are seeking to fit in. This is especially triggering for those in the early stages of recovery.


Feelings of loneliness and depression

Depending on the current standings of relationships with family members and friends, the holidays can become extremely lonely and bring many negative emotions. Dysfunctional families are one of the most common addiction triggers and occurs frequently around the holiday season.

Triggers are an inevitable part of recovery. The important part is to resist the temptation to relapse when experiencing a trigger. Check in with loved ones and remain aware of these potential triggers to help them through the difficult holiday season. New Life House can help you find the most effective ways to keep an eye out for these triggers.


How Can I Avoid Relapse?

The holiday season often sees an increase in relapse with recovering addicts, but relapse does not have to occur.

Taking the necessary steps to resist temptation and cope through triggers is imperative. Recovery is not easy, but can be helped by taking these steps:

  • Avoid triggering locations
  • Keep regularly attending meetings
  • Keep old friends with whom you used to engage in drinking or drug-taking at bay
  • Talk about your sobriety
  • Set goals
  • Attend events
  • Fill yourself with gratitude

During the holiday season, it is more important than ever to keep these things in mind and practice them daily. It can be tempting to shut yourself in at these times of the year, but resist that. Remain social, go to events with your family and friends to avoid feeling lonely, and be vocal about your life of sobriety. Hold yourself accountable, and ask your family and friends to do so as well while attending these events.

When traveling, attending meetings can become difficult. Try to find local meetings even if in a new place. This will help with maintaining a routine and accountability. Make it a goal to keep attending meetings regularly and to avoid triggering locations associated with your addiction.


Steps to Take if I Relapse During Holidays

While the goal is to maintain sobriety, this is not always the reality. Relapsing is common when going through the recovery process, but there are ways to get set back up for success if a relapse occurs.


Identify what caused the relapse

Identifying the trigger or triggers that led to a relapse will help to avoid them or cope with them better in the future.


Connect with a recovery community

Resisting the temptation to disconnect with reality out of shame is imperative. Loved ones should join a recovery community or attend meetings frequently. This helps them come to terms with the relapse and maintain accountability. New Life House is one of many great recovery communities that are here to help you and your loved one after relapse.


Establish a routine

Sober living communities can help recently relapsed addicts re-establish routine in their lives. Routine is a necessity for recovery.


Maintain familial support

Family members may be very emotional in light of a relapse of a loved one. It is important to maintain support for loved ones and continue AI-Anon programs to cope with these high emotions.

Relapse during the holidays is only an obstacle, it does not have to be permanent. After coming out of a relapse, it is important not to dwell. Instead, focus on what steps to take next to get back on the road to recovery. Relapse does not define a recovering addict. The next steps after a relapse do.


Contact New Life House for Support

If your loved one has experienced a relapse during the holiday season, or at any other time of the year, New Life House is here to help.

We are a sober living community dedicated to helping support and encourage recovering addicts to create a healthy, sober lifestyle.

Please reach out to us if you are seeking support for your loved one or are looking to learn about how to support them through addiction recovery.

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