Common Relapse Triggers During the Holidays & How to Deal with Them

The holidays can be an exciting and cheerful time of year, but for someone just leaving a residential treatment center and new to recovery, it can also be overwhelming. Along with the excitement of holiday parties, family gatherings, and the season’s many festivities, it may feel like relapse triggers are lurking around every corner.

drug triggers over the holidays

Common Addiction Relapse Triggers Over the Holidays

Relapse triggers are people, places, things, and emotions that can lead to alcohol or drug cravings and cause someone in recovery to relapse. Early recovery especially can be filled with intense drug triggers, but in general, they tend to become less frequent and less powerful as time goes on.

Unfortunately because of the nature of the season, drug relapse triggers during the holidays can be overwhelming. If you do not know what to expect and how to deal with them, it could be problematic for your sobriety. Below are some of the most common relapse triggers during the holidays that you need to be aware of.

Holiday Stress

One of the most common relapse triggers during the holiday season is stress. While exciting, this time of year can also be filled with stress. Not only can the holidays be financially stressful, but too often people try to go to every event and fit every activity into their already busy schedule. Especially if you are in the midst of outpatient treatment, trying to do everything can cause high-stress levels that may lead to relapse.


The holiday season is a time of celebration, but these holiday parties can also be filled with addiction triggers. Alcohol and drugs may be present at these events and make these environments too overwhelming for someone new to recovery.

Friends & Family

While the holiday season is often about spending time with loved ones, you should be careful. You may see people you could normally avoid who are dangerous to your sobriety. Some of your family members may even act as addiction triggers over the holiday. Especially if you have a strained relationship with your family, spending a substantial amount of time with them could leave you feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed. All of these emotions could lead to relapse.

High Expectations

Because of the high hopes that come with this time of year, one of the most common relapse triggers during the holidays is unmet expectations. While people talk about the magic of the holidays, you should not expect them to magically fix all your problems or erase your struggles in sobriety. Learning how to live in recovery takes time, mending broken relationships doesn’t happen overnight, and not every holiday event will be perfect. The more realistic your expectations, the better you will feel if something doesn’t work out.

How to Cope with Holiday Relapse Triggers

With so many potential holiday addiction triggers, navigating recovery during the holiday season may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to prevent relapse. Avoid triggers when you can and always have an exit strategy when you can’t.

If you do relapse, it is okay. Getting help like with a partial hospitalization program can help you get back on track.





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