How to Avoid a Holiday Relapse

8 Tips to Help You Stay on the Path of Recovery
Elderly man sitting in front of Christmas tree with cup of coffee smiling

Recovering from addiction and substance abuse can feel like a big challenge, especially during the holidays. People often spend the holidays drinking with family and friends, but for many, the celebration is more about their successful journey to recovery. And we're here to help you stay on that path! Here are eight tips to help you avoid a holiday relapse this season:

Avoid high-risk situations

Don't find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Before heading home or going out for the holidays, think about the people and places you should avoid. Don't call up your old drinking/using buddies; try to avoid places like bars or parties.

Bring on the calm

Stress is the number one cause of relapse. It's also a common issue during the holidays, so it's best to navigate away from difficult situations. Try to avoid any stress and minimize the drama in your life this season.

When in doubt, talk it out

Talking is the best way to reduce the stress surrounding the possibility of a holiday relapse. Talk to someone you trust, preferably someone in recovery, who can help steer you on the right path. Have at least one or two people in mind that you can call 24/7.

Make a plan

If your holiday is bound to include unavoidable stress, make a plan to leave when you're feeling stressed or uneasy. Don't want to talk about it? Simply state you are not feeling well and get yourself out of an uncomfortable situation.

Be your own ride

Always take your vehicle when you go to a family gathering or holiday get-together so you can leave anytime if you feel stressed or uncomfortable. If you can't drive yourself, explain to your driver that you may need to leave at any time. Make sure they understand and support you.

Give yourself 15 seconds

If you are tempted to drink/use, employ the 15-second rule to prevent a holiday relapse. Refrain from drinking or using for 15 seconds. Repeat the 15-second rule until you regain rational thought. Get to a safe place as soon as possible, even if that means leaving where you are.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

Reminding yourself of your goals and reasons for staying sober will help you keep on the right path. Say to yourself and repeat, "Don't' drink/use no matter what." It's also helpful to have a personal and meaningful word, phrase, or picture that will return you to rational thinking. Examples include the word gratitude or a picture of your children. Anything that has significant meaning to you will break irrational thinking.

Attend a meeting

If avoiding a holiday relapse is becoming especially difficult, go to a 12-Step meeting or other community-based support group. There are usually a few meetings you can find being hosted during the holidays.

No matter your holiday plans, remember that you are strong and brave for choosing the path of recovery. Keep yourself busy with safe activities, have a positive outlook on sobriety, and surround yourself with people who support you. The thought of a holiday relapse can cause some anxiety, so do your best to prepare yourself for every situation. Choose sobriety in every cheerful moment this season. Stay safe and happy holidays!

First Step Recovery provides outpatient treatment for adults struggling with substance use issues. We are located in Fargo, North Dakota. If you are struggling with addiction or substance use, take the first step. Call 701-451-4900 or fill out the contact form below if you have any questions or would like to inquire about services.

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