5 Steps To Prevent Relapse During The Holidays

Katie Donahoo

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1. Acknowledge The Risk

Holidays are a time of increased expectations and stress. It is important to acknowledge the things that make this true so you can prepare to deal with them: family obligations, increased or decreased work hours, financial strain, social events, gifts, etc. It goes on and on.  Recognize the risk for relapse and acknowledge it to yourself. If you ignore the risks or refuse to see them for what they are you can be blind sided by them and fall into relapse. 

2. Make A Plan

Who: Who am I going to choose to spend my time with? Friends, family, co-workers, children, spouse, sponsor, allies? Who has my best interests in mind? Are these people in recovery or supportive of my recovery? Are they actively using? 

What: What will I be doing with my time? Celebrations, dinners, parties, other social gatherings? How will I be spending my time at these events? Talking, eating, drinking, games, watching something? 

Where: At what locations will I spend my time? Are these locations triggering for me? Have I used in these locations in the past? Are these events being hosted at a bar, club, or after-hours party house/location? 

When: What time will arrive at these events and what time will I leave these events? What are my signals that I need to leave early? How will I leave; did I drive myself or am I reliant on someone else for a ride? 

Why: Why am I choosing these events to attend? What do I get out of attending these events? Do these events support my recovery? Do I feel welcomed and comfortable at these events? 

3. Practice Saying “No”

Have a few different ‘go to’ phrases prepared for declining events, invitations, or offers that do not suit your recovery lifestyle. Practice with a friend or in the mirror. Say your phrases out loud so you get used to hearing them in your own voice. Examples include: “I’m busy that day. I already have a prior commitment. No thanks. I don’t think that event is for me. I would prefer not to attend that event. I can’t help you out this year, I’m sorry.”

4. Reach For Your Support System

Go to your regular meeting. Attend extra meetings if you can. Don’t rely solely on friends and family. Reach out to your sponsor; they want to hear from you!

5. Celebrate

Holidays are time for fun and traditions. Don’t be afraid to create new traditions or a give a try to a different kind of fun. Give thanks, have fun, and celebrate. Enjoy the holiday! 


Seek professional help sooner rather than later. If you anticipate the holidays being especially difficult for you find a counselor NOW. Mental health services often require a waiting period to get started. Help is out there. Reach out today.

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