5 Tips for Avoiding Relapse Triggers During the Holidays

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From October to January, our focus is on the holiday season. From Halloween to Thanksgiving and ending in the New Year, during the fall and winter we are thrown off of our normal routine in an effort to spend time with family, shop for gifts, cook and bake, and participate in all sorts of holiday season events. Everyone can relate to the feelings of stress and pressure during the holidays. After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. As much as most people love the holiday season, at times, it can become truly overwhelming. For those in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, the stress, pressure, excitement, loneliness, or a number of various feelings can contribute to a sense of holiday anxiety.

Relapse triggers are things that can cause a desire to use drugs or alcohol to become stronger than a will to remain sober. Avoiding relapse triggers during the holidays is not always the easiest goal to accomplish, however, it’s not impossible.

Why Do People Relapse?

Every addict knows that relapse is a part of recovery. Virtually no one remains sober after the first time they get sober. Some people place their focus on bolstering their recovery so that they do not suffer a relapse, while others may focus on ways to pull themselves back to solid ground after they do relapse. Addiction is a sinister disease that can cause a person to relapse for a number of reasons, and many of those reasons become prominent during the holiday season.

During the holiday season, people balance their work lives, family lives, and inner lives. People purchase gifts, attend parties, and visit distant relatives. People may inadvertently disappoint their loved ones, they may run out of time, and they may be rushed in everything they do. Stress ramps up around Halloween and doesn’t ramp down until after the New Year.

Others may feel disappointed by the reality of the holiday season. There are not always happy endings with big turkeys and jovial families in real life. In real life, there are arguments, bills, and quotas. When real life doesn’t line up with what we see in the movies, we can experience cognitive dissonance that results in an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

Additionally, we often compare ourselves to others during the holiday season. We see other families on Christmas cards and we see expensive gifts on Instagram. Making comparisons between ourselves and others can make us feel depressed, anxious, and lonely.

Most relapses do not occur in a moment’s notice, rather there is usually a slow build-up leading up to the relapse. A physical relapse often happens after a person has experienced some mental and emotional troubles that have gone unaddressed. For example, stress, upsetting experiences, and ignoring emotions can all erode a person’s resilience in their recovery. This is especially true when more than one issue is happening simultaneously and going unaddressed. Relapse often occurs as a result of the neglect of psychological and emotional needs, which is why a large portion of recovery is focused on addressing issues as they occur.

What are the Warning Signs of a Relapse?

There are several warning signs associated with a relapse that can signal that one is on the horizon. From minor signs such as mood swings and unhealthy eating habits, to more severe ones such as having big cravings and convincing oneself that they can control their use, there are signs of relapse everywhere. 

Some of the most common warning signs that a relapse is imminent include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Overall poor self-care
  • Neglecting or masking emotions
  • Isolating from others
  • Developing a poor sleep schedule
  • Skipping meetings
  • Not utilizing coping skills
  • Avoiding problems
  • Glamorizing drug or alcohol use
  • Thinking about using
  • Planning to use

If these or other warning signs are noticed quickly, they can be actively identified and addressed in an appropriate manner. Should these signs go ignored, it can lead to a relapse, which can be fatal.

5 Tips for Avoiding Relapse Triggers During the Holidays

The holidays can be extremely complex, even for those who enjoy them. Avoiding relapse triggers during the holidays is absolutely key for those who are in recovery from drug or alcohol use. While it might seem nearly impossible for some, it is important to know that avoiding relapse triggers during the holidays is doable.

#1. Schedule Out Your Days

The holiday season can quickly jam-pack one’s schedule to the point where there is little time to simply relax. While we all try to accommodate our friends, family, and loved ones as much as possible, it is important to establish boundaries around how you are going to spend your time. Therefore, schedule out your days so that you have structure and can rely on time that is just for you, rather than for everyone else. 

#2. Know What to Say

Depending on what activities you are engaging in during the holidays, knowing what to say when someone asks you about things that are triggering can be extremely beneficial. Have a few responses in mind for when someone asks you why you aren’t drinking. Practice a few one-liners to throw out there when someone brings up a topic that is triggering for you. Being prepared will help bring you comfort both before and during the holidays. 

#3. Bring Your Own Drinks

Even if alcohol was not your substance of choice, if you are in recovery, you are abstaining from the use of alcohol, too. Alcohol plays a major role in the holiday season and may be present in many celebrations. Take control back by bringing your own non-alcoholic beverage to the event you are attending so that you feel comfortable and not tempted to drink.

#4. Go to Meetings Regularly

Be sure to continue to attend any meetings that you attend. The strength and wisdom that can be gained through these meetings can help in avoiding relapse triggers during the holidays. Not only that, but you can also increase your accountability to other members of the group, helping you stay encouraged to keep from drinking or using drugs. If you can’t make it to in-person meetings, reach out to your sponsor or other peer support, or find an online meeting to attend.

#5. Lean on Your Support System

The holidays are one of the most important times to lean on your support system because avoiding relapse triggers during the holidays can be complicated to do. Keep in constant contact with members of your support system, such as your sponsor, best friend, family member, or another close confidant. Share how you are feeling as opposed to bottling it up and keep the line of communication open. 

Benefits of Professional Help

Even though the holidays can be extremely difficult, there are plenty of resources that can help you maintain your sobriety. Professional treatment services such as those we offer at Clear Recovery Center can help you stay centered and focused on recovery. 

Professional outpatient treatment can be of great benefit to those who are at risk of relapse or have already relapsed during the holidays. If you have relapsed but do not require more intensive care, outpatient programming might be an effective way to help you address your relapse. However, in the event that you have relapsed and things have become out of control, our residential rehab services can help offer you the structure you need to get sober again. 

Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Redondo Beach, CA

We understand how difficult it can be to maintain sobriety. Avoiding relapse triggers during the holidays is a challenge in itself. Allow our team at Clear Recovery Center to help you through this difficult time so that you can continue on with your sobriety. 

If you are in need of help for a substance use disorder, contact us right now by calling (877) 799-1985 or visiting our website.

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