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Overcoming Recovery Challenges During the Holidays

By December 21, 2020February 4th, 2021News

For most, the holidays are a cheerful season filled with gift giving, celebrations, and festive memories, but for those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse, the jolly atmosphere can be a disguise for navigating triggers and overcoming temptations. Holiday customs, memories and events associated with alcohol or other drugs can make it a high-risk season for those in recovery. If you or a loved one is staying sober during this holiday season, it’s important to recognize the potential challenges of someone in recovery so they can be navigated with healthy choices.

The Challenges:

Busy Schedules

The holidays are a busy time of year for everyone, and for someone in recovery it can become more difficult to maintain a healthy routine. Those in recovery may find themselves missing group meetings and neglecting self-care practices which can be vital for their mental health and may affect their ability to manage triggers. 

Alcohol Related Activities 

Parties and alcohol are common during the holiday season. With family get-togethers, holiday parties, and New Year celebrations, it’s difficult to avoid alcohol-related triggers. It’s okay to opt out of parties if the environment is too tempting, however missing important festivities can also be lonely for some. Instead, try recruiting a sober friend to join you. Reaching out to your support system is a great way to stay accountable and most importantly: sober. 

Bad Memories

Depending on the situation, previous addictive behaviors may be associated with family members abusing alcohol or drugs and could be a contributor to complex relationships, resentment and feelings of guilt and shame. Individuals may experience painful reminders of past trauma during the holidays which could provoke a relapse. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reaching out to supportive friends and loved ones can give you the reassurance you need to get through the holidays.


For someone in recovery, being far away from friends and family can be extremely difficult. Lacking the proper support during the holiday season can be a major barrier in learning how to manage emotions attached to a path to sobriety. Recognizing feelings of loneliness during the holidays is the essential first step to handling the situation in a healthy way.  

The Plan:

Reach out to your support system

Whether it’s a significant other, friends, family or a support group, try to surround yourself with supportive people this holiday season. Plan to stay sober with a friend or simply reach out to someone about how you are feeling. Having loved ones around who support your path to sobriety will make the holidays much easier to get through. 

Don’t feel like you have to explain yourself

It can be daunting to attend an event where others are drinking, and you may feel obligated to have to explain yourself, however you don’t have to share details about your recovery to anyone unless you want to. A simple refusal will do. Stay true to your goals and choices and if you feel pressured you can always remove yourself from the situation. 

Take it one day at a time

Many find it tempting to make excuses or may pretend like they’re not at risk for a relapse. Check in with yourself before the holidays and be honest about your likely triggers. Be kind to yourself and remember how good it feels to be sober.

If you or a loved one is staying sober during the holidays, it’s important to prepare yourself for the potential challenges. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. Make sure to stay positive and remember to be kind to yourself this holiday season.

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