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How to Stay Sober During the Holidays

If you or a loved one is dealing with sobriety over the holidays, you might not be sure how to handle the festive season without a drink or a drug in your hand. Don’t worry, it can be done! Preparation is key. Staying sober doesn’t have to be a struggle if you know what you’ll do ahead of time when triggers present themselves.

Contact The Detox Center of Los Angeles today at (888) 346-4350 to learn how to access our addiction treatment programs.

Why the Holidays Can Be a Trigger For Relapse

Most of what you see in the media and in store ads present the holiday season as one joyful event after another. Yet the truth is that holidays can be hard, especially for those recovering from substance use disorders like alcoholism or drug addiction. 

When you’re living a sober life, you realize that the holidays provide a lot of opportunities to drink and use at parties. Conversely, if you’re not going to a lot of parties you might feel left out, which can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can trigger a relapse.

The season is a time for socializing, which is difficult for introverts in any case. But socializing often includes drinking. It can be stressful to make sure that any drink in your hand is a nonalcoholic one when there’s so much alcohol around you.

Holidays for many recovering addicts and alcoholics involve revisiting the people, places, and things that you associate with drugs and alcohol. You might encounter friends you used to use or drink with, and unless they’re also sober, they’re probably trying to pull you back to your old habits. And even if they’re sober, they might still be associating you with old habits. 

If you’re back in the old neighborhood where you used to drink or use drugs, you probably have strong memories of escaping your feelings at these places, Those emotions can result in major temptation.

But as long as you know how to stay sober during the holidays, you’ll be able to surround yourself with people and structures who will support your sobriety instead.

8 Relapse Triggers To Avoid During the Holidays To Stay Sober 

There are some common triggers for many recovering addicts and alcoholics, and simply avoiding them as best you can will help you stay sober. However, if you find that some of the triggers aren’t possible for you to avoid, then you need to plan what you’re going to do and what you’re going to say in order to prevent a relapse. 

If you already have a drink in your hand, it’s hard for people to insist that you drink something alcoholic. Just make sure your drink is alcohol-free and try to make it something you like to drink as well. Now that there’s a whole “sober curious” movement, you may find that people have more nonalcoholic drinks on offer. Having a preferred nonalcoholic drink on hand can help you prevent being triggered by situations you can’t avoid.

1. Stress

This may be one of the major causes of holiday relapse, but it’s hard to avoid entirely. Your best bet is to make sure that you’re consistent with the things you normally do to relieve stress: journaling, meditation, physical activity, your favorite hobby, or whatever it might be. Plan so that you have time for this type of self-care every day.

2. Parties

You may not be able to get out of every party, and you may not want to, either. Attending a party needs careful planning on your part. You don’t need to explain why you’re not drinking alcohol, but you do need to have a good answer when someone asks you what you want to drink. Something festive if alcohol-free is good. 

Always make your own drink or watch the person who’s pouring it so you know you’re getting the nonalcoholic drink you want. Know when you need to leave and how to leave when you need to, so you can escape if things become too triggering. 

You can definitely go to a party with people you’re excited to see and have a good time without a single drop of alcohol or use of any drug. But it does require a bit more thought ahead of time.

3. Friends and family who don’t support your sobriety

The people you used to drink and do drugs with are not the best people to reconnect with during the holidays. Even if you were best friends when you were kids, that doesn’t mean you have to accept their invitation to hang out. Especially when you know they’ll bring out the temptation sooner or later.

Relatives may be a little bit trickier. Maybe your drunk uncle or grandparent has a habit of saying terrible things to you that trigger you. If you can, avoid visiting. If you can’t, try to avoid being in the same room with them. Failing that, have an escape plan.

4. Shopping

For some people, overcrowded stores and traffic are a big relapse trigger. But you don’t have to go shopping during the holidays, especially if you’ve planned ahead. You can buy everything online, or hit the stores before Black Friday so you don’t get caught up in holiday insanity.

5. Traveling 

It’s pretty common for people to travel over the holidays, so you’re with a whole lot of other people doing the same thing. Plus, there are frequent delays due to weather. Avoid travel if you can, but if you do need or want to see people in a different location at this time, try traveling in off hours like late at night or early in the morning to minimize the madness.

6. Tight time schedules

Trying to stuff every day full of activities leaves you feeling fatigued and irritable, which isn’t great for sobriety. Be realistic about how much you can actually do in a day, and give yourself time to get from here to there since so many other people are out and about as well.

7. Nostalgia about the old days with drugs and liquor

Humans have a habit of looking back to the old days with fond memories, forgetting about all the terrible things that happened. That’s especially true for people in recovery, who tend to romanticize their drinking and using. Have some anecdotes of times when things went really, really wrong to derail these cozy memories and change the subject.

8. Holiday traditions with alcohol and drugs

Many midwinter festivals are about feasting and partying, so it’s not surprising this time of year brings these traditions to life. But maybe this season, it’s time to get creative and come up with new traditions that everyone enjoys but that don’t involve substances. 

Maybe you can’t get the whole family on board, but one or two to enjoy your new activity could make the issue of how to stay sober during the holidays a lot easier.

Stay Sober and Find Addiction Recovery at The Detox Center of L.A.

If you’re struggling with recovery during the season or you end up slipping, we can help you find your way back to sobriety. Our state-of-the-art, personalized care treats the whole person and not just the substance use disorder. Our facilities provide the full continuum of care from detox to residential treatment to outpatient care and virtual care.

If you need detox, you’ll be supervised 24/7 to make sure your symptoms don’t become too severe, and we also offer medication management to make the process more comfortable. While in rehab you’ll participate in individual and group counseling, and we also offer life skills classes, relapse prevention, and aftercare planning. We pay special attention to nutrition, health, and wellness so you can learn to soothe stress in ways you’ll be able to use after you graduate.

Don’t wait any longer to get the treatment you need and deserve, so you can get started on your journey to sobriety right away.


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The Detox Center of L.A. accepts most major insurance providers and private healthcare policies. We offer free insurance verification as well as eligibility and benefits for both behavioral and mental health treatment services. Please fill out our insurance verification form here to verify your insurance.

What happens in addiction

Effective addiction treatment programs are tailored to each individual. Because of this, it will be a different experience for everyone. However, it generally involves a combination of detoxification, group and individual therapy, educational presentations, and aftercare planning in order to ensure long-term recovery. Upon arrival at The Detox Center of L.A., you can expect our professionally trained staff to create an individualized treatment plan based on your needs and treatment goals.