Identifying and Managing Holiday Relapse Triggers

While most people consider the holiday season the most wonderful time of the year, for those in recovery, it can be one of the most challenging times. The holiday season is often full of relapse triggers in the form of:

  • Loneliness
  • Financial strain
  • Family relationships
  • The “shoulds” of parties
  • Lots of events with alcohol or drugs

Parties as Triggers

One of the biggest challenges, especially for people early in their recovery, is the stress of parties and gift-giving during the holidays. Parties are thrown for work, school, family, friends, and everything in between.

Some of the many customs and traditions around the holiday season center on alcohol consumption. For those in recovery, receiving invitations to parties can be very stressful because of the pressure to imbibe and buy gifts for everyone in attendance.

There are things you can do to better identify and manage these triggers. For example:

  • If you are experiencing a great deal of financial strain, don’t hesitate to counter invitations to parties with free alternatives like a movie night at your house, a walk in a local park where there are lots of holiday lights on display or even a simple night of hot chocolate.
  • If you are worried about parties, bring non-alcoholic drinks with you so that you still have something you can hold and raise in a toast without being singled out for not socializing. 
  • Consider bringing a sponsor, friend, or family member with you as well so that you have someone you can lean on. 

Family Relapse Triggers Around the Holidays

Family members are often a source of relapse triggers around the holidays for several reasons. For example:

  • Some family members are emotionally draining, and that can take away from the emotional reserves you have to manage yourself during your recovery and to avoid a relapse.
  • Family members might not be supportive, or there might be a history of relationship problems, all of which can be brought back to the surface at family get-togethers during the holidays.
  • You may disagree with some family members over political situations or religious beliefs, which can cause a lot of stress and arguments.
  • For some people, families are a big source of holiday triggers because they have to remember which family members have issues with other family members, or who isn’t speaking to whom, and other such drama.

Managing holiday relapse triggers that involve family members might include avoiding family events altogether, especially if this is your first holiday season and you know that there will be several triggers.

For other people, identifying and managing holiday relapse triggers could extend to setting boundaries on things that you will and will not do or will and will not talk about. For example, be prepared to say things like “I can’t continue this discussion” or “No thank you” when someone offers a drink without feeling the need to provide explanations that satisfy their curiosity.

Places as Triggers

Places might be relapse triggers around the holidays. Triggers always look different for everyone, but there might be a particular place that you heavily associate with drug use or alcoholism, and if you go back to that place, it could serve as a trigger.

For example:

  • A restaurant where you used to drink after work might be a trigger
  • A street where you were once arrested for possession might be a trigger
  • The pharmacy where you first picked up prescriptions to which you developed an addiction could be a trigger
  • A family home where fights happened because of addiction could be a trigger

Managing holiday relapse triggers that involve places is unique for each person. For some people, avoiding these relapse triggers around the holidays could mean not going to certain cities, down certain streets, or to a certain family member’s house.

But for other people, managing these triggers might mean extra support groups during the holiday season where the complicated emotions that arise upon going to those places can be dealt with.

Get Help When You Need It

If you are in recovery, it’s imperative that you learn to identify your personal relapse triggers around the holidays and develop coping strategies. Places like Sequoia Recovery Centers, a drug and alcohol detox center in Spokane, WA, can help you not only with your detox but also with residential or outpatient treatment. Clients at Sequoia Recovery Centers can find treatment for substance abuse in Washington through a range of care options, including partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs in Spokane

There may be triggers that you are not yet equipped to deal with, and if you can’t avoid them, you might need to learn additional coping strategies that can help you. These strategies can be learned through support groups, additional AA or NA meetings, or from professional treatment.

Don’t let the holiday triggers cause a relapse. Reach out to our team today to learn useful coping skills for managing holiday triggers.

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