Navigating the Holidays in Recovery

December 29, 2022

Recovery happens one day at a time, and anyone in recovery can tell you that each day brings unique challenges. Even during the holidays, when the expectation is one of relaxation and celebration, it’s important to take it one day at a time and keep your guard up against triggers.

If you’re in recovery and preparing to combat the obstacles that are distinct to this time of year, you’re in luck. Let this article act as a guide to help prepare you for the holiday season and provide encouragement for your journey.

The holidays and recovery

Whether you’re a few days sober or have abstained from substance use for a decade, the holidays can be an especially tricky time. There are triggers associated with the holidays that may not be part of your normal routine, making them harder to manage.

Relapse can be a real threat during this season. In order to avoid a regrettable return to using drugs and alcohol, it’s important to prepare yourself. Here are five steps to anticipate holiday triggers and handle them.

1. Examine your current triggers

Triggers to use alcohol and drugs vary and are as unique as the individuals themselves. Some people may be able to manage family conflict without turning to old habits, while others may flee to alcohol after a short phone call with family.

Understanding the triggers you face year-round can help you understand both the extent to which those triggers will be present in the coming month, as well as the possibility that those stressors could be exacerbated by the holidays.

For example, if money issues commonly provoke the urge to use opioids, it’s likely the extra spending on presents and events will lead to unbearable strain and the potential for relapse.

2. Consider triggers that may be unique to the holidays

There are plenty of potential triggers that pop up exclusively at this time of year. For example, you may feel the urge to drink in an attempt to feel more at ease around family you only see once a year. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, the grief of their absence on Christmas morning could be extra painful.

3. Understand the seasonal impact

The change in weather may contribute to why the holidays can be a challenging period in recovery. If you live in a colder climate, it’s worth noting that in the winter months — with less sunlight, cold temperatures and less time spent outdoors — a person’s body will not produce as much vitamin D. 

Low levels of vitamin D can decrease mood, contributing to negative emotions that tend to precede relapse. If you notice the weather negatively affecting your mood it may be worth mentioning to your doctor.

4. Create a plan

One of the best tips for the holidays and recovery is to create an emergency escape plan for yourself. While you can expect certain triggers and plan to avoid them or manage them, there will also be triggers that arise unexpectedly. Preparing an out can be the key to avoiding relapse.

5. Recommit to sobriety

When a person makes the decision to get sober, his resolve may naturally fade over time. It’s normal to experience our ambitions fluctuating as we go through the hardship of recovery, and that’s why it’s essential to recommit to your recovery goals frequently.

At the beginning of the holiday season, you’ll want to formally recommit yourself to recovery. Whether you do this in treatment, ask a friend to help keep you accountable or meet with a mentor, you’ll find that your firm disposition to stay sober can be a shield against upcoming triggers.

These five tips may help lay the foundation for preparing you for the holiday season. When you understand your normal triggers, anticipate holiday-related triggers, assess the impact of the winter season, create an escape plan and recommit to sobriety, you’ll be well set up to enjoy the holidays without constant fear of relapse.

Inspiration to get you through the holidays

Despite the fact that the holidays are a challenging time, they can also inspire hope. Use this season as fuel for your future. The longer you stay sober, the easier each holiday will become and the more you’ll be able to enjoy your life year-round.

If this is your first holiday season sober, it’s likely you’ll need to set strict limits for yourself and rely on the help of loved ones. It can feel strange to depend on others and avoid so many holiday moments, but the good news is that once you bear through the next month, you’ll be stronger in your recovery and you won’t have regrets.

If you’ve spent a couple of holidays sober, you’ve probably already noticed that you’re better able to anticipate and manage triggers as time goes on. Triggers may always be present around the holidays, but the lure of drugs and alcohol fades over time as you feel in control of your life again.

Get help during the holidays

The holidays can be the most problematic time of year for those in recovery. If you’re eager to protect your process in sobriety, your best bet is to start professional treatment. October Road can offer you the care you’re looking for.

Call us at 888-201-5086 today so you can protect your recovery and enjoy this holiday season.