How to Cope With Addiction During the Holidays

December 16, 2021
addiction during holidays | gratitude lodge

Holidays can be a time of increased stress for many people. You might feel triggered by your family or by revisiting your childhood home when you are battling mental illness and/or substance use disorder. In addition, the holidays can be incredibly challenging to cope with addiction if friends and family members celebrate with a drink or other substances. The holidays don’t need to be a stressful or triggering time for you during recovery from addiction. You can plan a way to celebrate the holidays safely and cope with stressors. By creating a plan to navigate your addiction and holiday events, you can lessen your triggers and reduce your risk of relapsing.

Why Are Holidays Triggering?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations (SAMHSA) states that the holidays can be “wrought with triggers such as songs, scents, and rituals.” For those with traumatic pasts, these traditions can be triggering. In addition, “there is pressure to conform to particular social and familial expectations, increased presence of alcohol, and more interactions with family and friends.”


While the holiday season is meant to bring joy and happiness, many people find this season overwhelming or upsetting. Sometimes, the holidays can make people feel lonely if they have no one to spend time with. The pandemic continues to create barriers for people wanting to visit friends and family. Some people are going to celebrate over video chat to stay safe this year.

For others, the holidays force them to spend time with family members who have challenging or differing belief systems. Members of the LGBTQI+ community can find navigating the holidays especially challenging if their relatives do not accept who they are.

If you have a mental health or substance abuse issue, you might be tempted to escape the stress of holiday triggers with drugs or alcohol. When family members are not accepting of you or are not respectful of your boundaries with substance use, the holidays can be stress-inducing and leave you vulnerable to relapse.


How to Prevent Relapse From Addiction During The Holidays

Relapse prevention is crucial during recovery from addiction. While you cannot always avoid triggers, you can find ways to manage them and get through stressful times without relapsing. Try some of the following tips to get through the holidays this year:


  • Consider alternative ways of celebrating
    • If your traditional holiday celebrations are more stressful than enjoyable, consider finding a new way to celebrate.
    • You might want to try something new this year, like volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, taking a vacation, or just relaxing on your own.
  • Celebrate with your “chosen” family
    • Sometimes, family members can remind you of traumatic childhood experiences or get under your skin with comments about who you are as a person.
    • If you have healthy friendships with people who are accepting and respectful of your recovery, you might want to consider celebrating holidays with “chosen” family instead of your biological family.
  • Set limits and boundaries
    • You might want to limit your time in triggering environments this year.
    • Be firm with others if you set boundaries with family members who trigger you.
    • Setting limits and boundaries are crucial skills for recovery and relapse prevention, which will help you to navigate challenging relationships and conflicts.
  • Think about where you are in your recovery
    • Are you ready to face triggers during the holiday season, or do you need to build more skills to manage stress?
    • Be honest with yourself about your ability to handle potential triggers.
    • If you aren’t ready to deal with triggers during celebrations or worry about urges to drink or use, you might want to avoid these environments this year.
  • Opt for virtual platforms or phone calls
    • You can connect with family members and friends over the phone or via the internet.
    • Online platforms can help you connect with others without being in potentially risky places.
  • Go to a support group meeting
    • Since the holidays are often triggering for those in recovery, you might want to attend a peer support group meeting on those days or before the holidays.
    • You can discuss triggers with your peers and come up with coping strategies before going to family gatherings.

If you struggle before or during the holidays, seeking treatment might be the best way to prevent a relapse. The holiday season can create an overwhelming amount of pressure and stress. You might be in danger of relapsing, even if you plan to manage triggers. If you cannot get through the holidays this year, it is okay to reach out for professional help to prioritize your mental health and recovery.

Get Treatment For Addiction During The Holidays in Southern California

If the holiday season is too stressful for you to manage on your own, you can reach out for the help of professionals to prevent a relapse. Gratitude Lodge is here to help you overcome substance use disorders with our comprehensive addiction treatment services. Call today or visit our admissions page to learn more.

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