Holiday Stress Can Lead to Relapse

Holiday relapses are common; holidays are stressful times for alcoholics and drug addicts. With families wanting to see their loved ones again in the midst of their recovery.  Early recovering addicts have problems with overconfidence. becoming blinded by their disease of not being able to see the truth from the false.  

As a recovering addict, I had the ability to lie to myself on where I was with my recovery.  I would tell myself, that I can handle any situation any time. My life had to become one of structure. I had to learn this from people with knowledge on how to help me.  The process that I had to take to get there was through inpatient rehab for detox. After that, I continued with an outpatient holistic therapy program.  I needed 12-step meetings and a sponsor. I lived in transitional living or a halfway house for 8 months which brings me back to why holidays relapses were an issue.  

Over the time being there I watched many addicts and alcoholics in early recovery go home to soon in their sobriety, and I watched them relapse or stay up there to go on a “run”.  Now I get to watch as an industry professional usually with similar results as what I saw living in a halfway house.  Addicts and Alcoholics are good manipulators at their craft and in early recovery those behaviors are still very much alive.  

As parents, the line of “I’m going to a friends, I want to see him before I go back. I’m sober now you don’t have to worry about me, I called my sponsor.”  Family members want to believe their loved ones that they are going to stay “sober” this time around.  Family members are also dealing with a lot of hurt and pain, which a couple months of sobriety is not enough time for that to be built back.  I would like to see everybody have safe and sober holidays because they can be daunting for the addict and alcoholic.

How to Avoid Holiday Relapses:

The stretch of time between Thanksgiving and New Years can be overwhelming for the addict and alcoholic as well as the families of these loved ones.  Here are 5 stressors to look out for this season to prevent holiday relapses:


During the holiday season, it seems like everyone is partying, decorating, arranging for guests, sending out invitations, reminiscing, and stocking up on food and alcohol. Just knowing that there’s an annual office party, the family gets together, or your “old friends” want to catch up will spike your stress levels higher.  This is a huge holiday stress because we are intuitive enough to realize that there will be drugs and alcohol at the parties we go to.   As drug addicts and alcoholics it is always important to figure out what are motives are at those parties and where our sobriety is at.  


During the holidays we can get caught up on how much money we are spending, bills we have to pay, and trips to go and see our families.  There are a lot of emotions around holidays and finances due to the thought of how we put ourselves into financial stress.  “What-If” I never went on that last run, “I wouldn’t be in this spot right now.”  It is a difficult task for recovering addicts to face the financial burdens we create during our “using”.  Managing money and getting rid of the selfishness are huge tasks for addicts in recovery to work on.  In recovery we learn tools to not “expect” financial help because I have been sober for any period of time.  


The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year when it comes to emotional turmoil. Feelings of shame, guilt, humiliation, embarrassment, anger and depression may be associated with this period. Many people in recovery report they experience increased anxiety with respect to triggers and cravings during the holidays.  Going back to your home environment and facing those that you have hurt in the past can be a burden to your conscience.  We often go back home earlier than what may be healthy for us to be put back into the situation of dealing with those emotions that have been buried for years.  Addicts and alcoholics learn the tools they need to be able to deal with their emotions through a healthy recovery path.  

Family Conflict:

Being in close contact with family members is another serious stressor during the holiday season. Coupled with the likelihood that alcohol will be served during family get-togethers or parties and the outlook is not promising for maintaining your sobriety. Old wounds may be reopened when family members drink, with resulting increase in conflict that may get out of hand –- not the least of which is the urge to drink or use just to escape it, likely a coping method used in the past.  You may have been away to treatment and have had time to build back healthy relationship with your family, they may not be receptive to your needs of recovery.  

Disruption in Schedules, Time Demands:

With so many people busy with holiday parties, taking time off from work and schedules taking a backseat to holiday plans, is it any wonder that your normal routine will be disrupted? With work schedules jammed due to deadlines to meet before everyone takes off for a break, therapists or sponsors going out of town, increased demands from your spouse, partner or other family members, and your own inability to say no when asked to do something, schedule disruptions and demands on your time can put serious stress on your sobriety. It is also likely to affect your regular meeting attendance, exercise routine, even healthy eating patterns.  Going through the stress and the demands that a family may press upon you, and the underlying feeling of not seeing your family for long periods of time.  

The facts of holiday relapses are uncharted and won’t necessarily prove that it is any greater risk than the usual day to day.  From an addict/alcoholic that has experienced these stressors first hand, I can tell you that the risks are real and need to be thoroughly discussed before putting ourselves in high risk situations.  I had to plan every decision around my recovery or I put myself at risk for a relapse, I continue to think about the above described before I go back to my old environments and people that have put my sobriety at risk.  To be successful we have to prepare and weigh out all the options of “what might happen” before we put ourselves in harms’ way.  

If you or a loved one you know needs help please reach out and seek a better way of life.  It takes a large amount of courage and willingness to take the next step to sobriety, and everyone deserves to be free from addiction.  I am blessed to have found that path, and I put that willingness to action.  I took a lot of time to listen to the suggestions to those around me and take what others had to say seriously which led to my success today.

Finding Help With Holiday Relapses

Holiday relapses happen. Don’t give up. If you or a loved one are in need of addiction treatment, please contact our recovery center office via the form on this page, or call our recovery specialists at 1-800-249-1932. All calls are free and confidential. We can also verify your insurance coverage over the phone.

Photo credit to Flickr user chinglecats.

The post Holiday Stress Can Lead to Relapse appeared first on Anchor Bay Recovery.


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