Preparing for the Holidays While in Recovery

The holiday season is quickly approaching – and despite being billed the most wonderful time of year, it can also be the most stressful. That is why preparing for the holidays while in recovery is extremely important. Harvard Medical School cites main sources of holiday stress as “financial demands of the season, negotiating the interpersonal dynamics of family, and maintaining personal health habits.” And these personal health habits go beyond an exercise routine – for individuals suffering from addiction, maintaining sobriety during the holidays can be the biggest challenge of all.

Is Relapse Common During the Holidays?

Relapse is very common during the holidays for two reasons: stress and social occasions. The holidays are a notoriously stressful time of year, and alcohol is a staple of most holiday celebrations. For many, social drinking is simply how they get in the spirit – but for many more, social drinking can quickly get out of control.

  • According to, 450,000 monitored DUI offenders increased their drinking rates by 33 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
  • Binge drinking is so common during the winter holidays that the Wednesday preceding Thanksgiving is nicknamed “Blackout Wednesday.”
  • The Surveillance for Violent Deaths found that the rate of drug overdose increases significantly during the holidays.

Between the stress of finding the perfect gifts (while still paying the bills) and the prevalence of drinking at every holiday party, it can be all too easy to fall off the wagon.

I’m in Recovery – How Do I Stay Sober During the Holidays?

During the holiday season – especially if it’s your first holiday season since rehab – you’ll be presented with a unique set of challenges. From endless party invitations to family reunions to work events, the weeks spanning October through December offer no shortage of tempting opportunities to renege your commitment to sobriety. But don’t forget: of your many options, the most important one is your option to say “No, thank you.”

Ways to Avoid Relapsing During the Holidays

  • Be honest about your sobriety. Many individuals battling addiction feel a level of shame about their sobriety or keep it to themselves so they don’t make others uncomfortable – but you should be proud of your recovery. If your family, friends and even coworkers are aware that you’re sober, they’re unlikely to offer you drinks or drugs. They might even encourage you not to drink or do drugs – and at the very least, they’ll understand why you’re turning down their offers.
  • Shift your focus. Instead of romanticizing how the holiday season was when you were indulging in addictions, try focusing on how it can be now that you’re sober. Associations can be hard to shake, but if you start thinking about the holiday season in a different way you’ll find you won’t be as disappointed when addictive substances play no part in your celebration.
  • Distract yourself. View the holiday season as an opportunity to see loved ones, enjoy baking and cooking, and do little (but time-consuming) things like sending out holiday cards or creating homemade gifts.
  • Treat yourself. Just because you’re not imbibing doesn’t mean you can’t indulge. Stay up too late decorating the house. Eat two too many Christmas cookies. Plan a getaway at a mountain cabin and enjoy the snowfall. You don’t need alcohol or drugs to get in the holiday spirit!
  • Surround yourself with good influences. During the holidays, you may feel a stronger-than-usual urge for old friends and old habits. But if you’re trying to stay sober, the worst thing you can do is reunite with the individuals who inspired your addiction to begin with. If they’re still using drugs, you can bet they’ll invite you to do the same – so you’re better off avoiding this situation altogether. Seek to surround yourself with positive influences, individuals with healthy habits, and drug-free family and friends who genuinely want the best for you.

What If I Relapse During the Holidays?

If you can feel yourself on the verge of relapsing during the holidays, you have options.

  1. Remove yourself from the situation. If it’s a certain party or group of individuals enticing you to relapse, leave. Politely say your goodbyes and walk away. Don’t worry about being rude – your true friends will understand.
  2. Contact a member of your sober support system, whether it’s a friend or hotline or sponsor. No matter what the time of year, that’s what they’re there for – reassuring you that you don’t need drugs and alcohol to be happy, reminding you of how far you’ve come, and encouraging you to stay the course.
  3. If you slip up, seek help. What can you do after relapsing? First, remember that recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is a lifelong journey, and there are bound to be bumps along the way. Reach out to close friends and family; don’t hide it from them simply because you don’t want to ruin a party or put a damper on the holiday season.

About Pinelands Recovery Center

If it’s clear you need more professional help, finding the right rehabilitation program is your next step.

Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is widely known as one of New Jersey’s finest, most respected addiction treatment facilities. With comfortable 30-bed accommodations and 24-hour professional staff, we can offer clients a serene, relaxing environment amid the lush piney woods. This stress-free setting with its sense of warmth and welcoming enables you to feel comfortable and confident about your clean and sober life ahead.

We will establish clear goals, both general in nature and specific to your needs. We continue to monitor those goals, to make sure that our clients are progressing and buying into their recovery plan. We thrive on assisting clients in feeling connected to the recovery community, share and demonstrate effective coping techniques, help clients to modify attitudes and patterns of behavior and everything else you will need to be happy and productive living a sober, healthy life.

We ensure that clients complete their planned concrete tasks, encourage hope, optimism and healthy living. Our recovery program is not a revolving door treatment program; it is a recovery model designed to help clients go on to lead productive, happy lives. For more information, visit