December 6, 2019

Creating a Holiday Relapse Prevention Plan

an image of a holiday decoration

During the holiday season, we cherish cheerful traditions, family gatherings, and delightful feasts. Yet, for those battling addictions, recovery and the holidays can feel daunting and overwhelming without drugs or alcohol. 

To better equip yourself for recovery during the holidays, develop a plan that can help you steer clear of relapse. This guide to recovery in the holidays is packed with sobriety tips to help you maintain ongoing sobriety in the face of temptation. You will also discover how to create an effective relapse prevention plan. 

Steps to Creating Your Relapse Prevention Plan

Crafting a relapse prevention plan is one of the keys to staying sober during challenging times like the holidays. Follow these steps to create a robust holiday relapse prevention plan worksheet so you can thrive during the holidays in recovery.


Reflect on your triggers, stressors, and past relapse patterns. Understanding your vulnerabilities is the first step to prevention. Holiday triggers and substance abuse need not co-occur if you plan ahead.

Identify warning signs

Recognize early warning signs that indicate you might be at risk of relapse. These could include increased stress, emotional turmoil, or thoughts of using substances.

Establish boundaries

Set clear boundaries with yourself and communicate them to friends and family. Ensure that they understand your commitment to sobriety.

Build a support network

Strengthen your support system to minimize the chance of addiction and the holidays coinciding. Reach out to a sponsor, counselor, or sober friends who can provide guidance and encouragement.

Develop coping strategies

Create a list of healthy coping strategies to manage triggers and cravings. This may involve deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, or engaging in hobbies that you enjoy.

Plan alternative activities

Plan sober activities and alternatives to substance-centric events during the holidays. Explore new traditions that reinforce your commitment to sobriety.

Emergency contacts

Compile a list of emergency contacts, including your sponsor, support group members, and crisis hotlines. Keep it readily accessible for when temptation strikes.

Self-care routine

Prioritize self-care by maintaining a daily routine that includes exercise, meditation, and adequate sleep. A healthy lifestyle can fortify your resilience while boosting physical and mental health.

Celebrate milestones

Acknowledge your achievements and milestones in recovery. Celebrate your progress, reinforcing your motivation to stay sober.

Seek professional help

Don’t hesitate to reach out to addiction professionals or therapists for guidance in developing and fine-tuning your relapse prevention plan. You can also access resources like a holiday relapse prevention plan PDF or a holidays in recovery worksheet if you are struggling to get started.

Practice mindfulness

Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine. Mindfulness can help you stay present and better manage stressors.

Regularly review your plan

Periodically review and update your relapse prevention plan to make sure that it remains relevant and effective in different situations.

By following these steps and tailoring your relapse prevention plan to your unique needs and circumstances, you can significantly enhance your ability to maintain sobriety, even during challenging times like the holiday season.

an image of someone writing a relapse prevention plan

Common Holiday Triggers to Be Aware Of

The holiday season can bring unique triggers that challenge sobriety. Be mindful of these common holidays and recovery triggers:

  • Social pressure: Social gatherings often involve alcohol, making it tempting to drink to fit in or alleviate discomfort.
  • Emotional stress: High expectations and family dynamics can lead to emotional stress, triggering cravings for drugs or alcohol.
  • Holiday memories: Nostalgia for past holidays involving substance use can increase the risk of relapse.
  • Loneliness: For some, the holidays can intensify feelings of isolation and loneliness, which may drive cravings.
  • Accessibility: The prevalence of addictive substances at holiday events makes access easier and relapse more likely.

Halloween Relapse Triggers

Halloween can pose specific relapse triggers:

  • Costume parties: Many Halloween parties involve alcohol. Choose sober events or attend with a supportive friend.
  • Candy substitutes: Replacing one craving with another – like substituting candy for alcohol – can be a potential trigger. Be mindful of sugar consumption.

Thanksgiving Relapse Triggers

Thanksgiving presents its unique challenges:

  • Family gatherings: Family dynamics and stress can be heightened during this holiday. Be prepared to manage emotions.
  • Food coma: Overeating can lead to discomfort or guilt, potentially triggering cravings. Monitor your food intake carefully.

Christmas Relapse Triggers

Christmas brings its own set of triggers:

  • Gift-giving stress: The pressure to give and receive gifts can create anxiety. Remember the value of your presence over presents.
  • Holiday parties: Alcohol is usually readily available at Christmas parties. Prioritize sober Christmas celebrations or have a non-alcoholic beverage in hand.

By recognizing these triggers and developing strategies to address them, you can navigate the holiday season with confidence and maintain your commitment to sobriety.

How to Stay Sober During the Holidays

Maintaining sobriety during the holiday season can be challenging, but it is achievable with careful planning and commitment. Here are some practical steps to help you stay sober during this festive time.

Prioritize self-care

Dedicate time for self-care practices, including exercise, meditation, and relaxation techniques. Take care of your physical and emotional well-being during the holiday period and beyond.

Communicate your sobriety

Inform friends and family about your commitment to sobriety. Open and honest communication helps set clear expectations and gain support.

Attend sober events

Seek out alcohol-free gatherings and activities. Joining sober events provides a supportive and substance-free environment.

Bring your sober support

Invite a sober friend or family member to accompany you to holiday gatherings. Having a supportive companion can offer strength and encouragement.

Plan an escape route

Develop an exit strategy for situations where you feel uncomfortable or triggered. Knowing how to leave a challenging environment is empowering.

Practice saying no

Politely decline offers of alcohol or drugs with a firm but gracious “No.” Prepare responses in advance to help you assert your boundaries.

Create non-alcoholic options

Prepare or request non-alcoholic beverages at gatherings. Having enjoyable alcohol-free alternatives can make socializing easier.

Stay connected to support

Attend support group meetings regularly. Staying connected with your recovery community provides valuable encouragement.

Avoid high-risk environments

Be selective about the events you attend. Prioritize gatherings that are alcohol-free or less likely to trigger cravings.

Mindful reflection

Reflect on your journey and the reasons you chose sobriety. Reminding yourself of the positive changes it has brought can strengthen your resolve.

Be grateful

Embrace the spirit of gratitude during the holidays. Focus on the blessings in your life and the progress that you’ve made in your recovery.

Seek professional help

If you find the holiday season unduly challenging, consider seeking guidance from addiction professionals or therapists. Remember that staying sober during the holidays is an achievement worth celebrating. By proactively planning, prioritizing self-care, and seeking support, you can enjoy the festivities with confidence, resilience, and a clear commitment to your well-being.

an image of Gratitude Lodge's holidays in recovery treatment center

Get Help for Recovery During the Holidays at Gratitude Lodge        

Holidays can be stressful and challenging for those grappling with substance use issues. If you or a loved one needs help initiating recovery from addiction during the holidays, reach out to Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

For those who are dependent on drugs or alcohol, our supervised medical detox program will streamline the withdrawal process and help you move into ongoing treatment at one of our pet-friendly rehab centers in Long Beach or Newport Beach, CA.

You can engage with a personalized blend of the following treatment at our 30-day inpatient program:

Whether you have relapsed in your recovery or you require first-time addiction treatment, call 800-994-2184 today for immediate assistance.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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