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When you’re in recovery, it’s a huge benefit to have the support of loved ones. However, during the holidays our loved ones may inadvertently stir up feelings that can contribute to relapse. Coping with these feelings is key for avoiding relapse during the holidays.

The holiday season can be a rough time. A study by the American Psychological Association reported about 50 percent of women in the U.S. experience heightened stress during the holidays. Coping methods for dealing with stress included overeating (41 percent) or drinking alcohol (28 percent). Men who reported eating more to cope with stress rose by 6 percent around the holidays.1

As the year closes, people tend to look back on their accomplishments and failures. Old patterns of behavior emerge, and stress and anxiety levels increase. Our ability to cope may decrease due to what we’re feeling, and relapse can result. Identifying destructive emotions and preventing or dealing with them without relapsing is a key skill for surviving the holidays.


It seems everyone else is bustling around, planning to see friends and family, buying gifts and otherwise preparing for the holiday season. If you aren’t close to your loved ones physically or emotionally, this may magnify feelings of loneliness.


While the holidays are supposed to be a time of comfort and joy, people are often more stressed out than ever during this season. In reality, seeing friends and family causes conflicts, disappointment, missed expectations, fatigue and money pressures that can add up to a stressful holiday season.


Loneliness and stress can easily lead to depression. For many, the holiday season brings feelings of sadness. People with depression tend to linger more over their failures and flaws.2 If depression worsens, it can lead to relapse.

Stay Mindful to Avoid Relapse During the Holiday Season

It’s important to be mindful of negative feelings like loneliness, stress and depression so that when they happen, you can effectively deal with them. If these types of feelings overwhelm you, it may be opening the door to temptation to use drugs or alcohol. To prevent relapse, try the following tips:

Keep a Journal

It’s key to track your feelings and get help if needed. By keeping a journal, you have concrete, cumulative data to work with. If you see that you have a 7-10 day run of negative feelings, contact your therapist for a relapse evaluation.

Keep to Your Daily Schedule

While it may seem difficult with a schedule that’s disrupted due to holiday social events, traveling and time off from work, keep to your schedule. It’s important to stick to a schedule that cares for your well-being. Eat well and exercise daily.

Have an Escape Plan

If relatives become too abusive or insulting, politely remove yourself from the situation. Have a safe exit plan where you can leave any gathering if it becomes too uncomfortable or overwhelming.

Focus on the Positive

By focusing on things you have, like your sobriety and a healthy life, you can be grateful for the good things. You’re sober and living a better life than the one that was mired in addiction. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and be thankful for the life you lead. Life is precious, and you’re still standing strong and sober.

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  1. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/women-stress.aspx
  2. http://psychcentral.com/lib/top-relapse-triggers-for-depression-how-to-prevent-them/
Destructive Emotions: Avoiding Relapse During the Holidays
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