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Why the Holidays Are a Risky Time for Recovering Addicts

By Rai CornellThe holidays signify different things for different people, but holiday drinking is a part of many cultures all over the world. If you or someone you love is struggling with the thought of staying sober during the holidays, there are a few things to be aware of and ways you can combat the temptation and stress.
Holiday Temptation and Recovering Addicts


The holidays are filled with temptation for everyone — sweets, plate after plate of delicious food and the “no-peeking” rule for presents. However, recovering addicts have a few extra temptations to ward off, which can make the holidays especially difficult. There’s often alcohol at holiday parties and family get-togethers, the party atmosphere may invoke memories of old behavior patterns and returning home may mean seeing old friends or neighborhoods that remind you of the days of using. You may find yourself surrounded by friends and family members who are enjoying a bit of holiday drinking, which can make you feel lonely or isolated for abstaining.


As well-intentioned as the holidays are, they can be a source of stress for some people. If you’re responsible for making the holiday feast or you’re struggling to find last-minute presents, the pressure can begin to feel like too much. Also, everyone has that one family member that they just don’t get along with all the time, which can make the holidays tense. Interruptions in your routine can also leave you feeling like breaking the rules. However, there are ways to combat holiday stress and maintain your sobriety through to the new year.

Coping With the Season

If you’re finding it difficult to uphold your sober lifestyle during the holidays, you can ease the strain by planning ahead and making smart choices. If you know you’ll be headed to a gathering where there will be holiday drinking, do some research ahead of time to find an AA, NA or SMART Recovery meeting near the gathering. If you find yourself tempted during the party, head to the meeting. You can always return after the meeting when you’re refreshed and grounded in your sobriety. Also, you will likely find other people looking for non-alcoholic beverages at the party. Bring a bottle of sparkling cider to share with other guests. Having a bubbly (but nonalcoholic) drink in your hand will deter others from offering you tempting beverages. Any time you find yourself giving in to the pressures of the holiday, excuse yourself to get some fresh air. Sometimes all it takes is a moment of quiet clarity to remember what’s important.

The holidays are a time for celebrating what matters most. You’ve worked hard for your sobriety and to become a healthier person. Protect it and celebrate your accomplishments this holiday season.


Gaumond, P. (2012). Celebrating the Holidays with Recovering Family and Friends.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Client’s Handbook: Matrix Intensive Outpatient Treatment for People with Stimulant Use Disorders.

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