Renaissance Ranch

How to Avoid Relapse This Holiday Season

Dec 17, 2022

The holiday season has arrived, and you may have mixed feelings about it. For some, the holidays are filled with joy, family, and good times. For others, the holidays can bring sadness, stress, and feelings of isolation. Substance abuse can increase this time of year as people try to cope with the challenges of the holidays. This being the case, it is important to make extra efforts to avoid relapse this holiday season. 

Increased Substance Abuse

Why is it that substance abuse may increase during the holidays? Reasons can vary. For many, the holidays can be very stressful. You are likely to spend more money during the holidays or feel pressured to do so. Social gatherings with family and friends are also more prevalent during the holidays, creating more opportunities for temptation. Your schedule might get a little extra busy during the holidays with family visiting and special events. This can be exhausting, only increasing your desire to use substances to relax and unwind. 

Financial Stress

Gift-giving or the desire to do so can leave you feeling financially strained. The pressure to buy the perfect gifts for loved ones can lead to increased debt and ultimately lead to financial distress. According to Lending Tree’s article published in 2021 on holiday debt, “[M]ore than a third of consumers (36%) incurred holiday debt” in 2021.

Social Gatherings

Holiday parties are in full swing this time of year. Many times, alcohol and other substances will be easily accessible at these events. This can create some conflict and leave you feeling uncomfortable. 

Social gatherings can also be overwhelming. Surrounding yourself with people who may not be aware of or supportive of your struggle with substance abuse can be very uncomfortable. 


The pressure to be everywhere and RSVP to every invite this time of year can be intense. You might find yourself over-committing to try to please everyone. You may feel pulled in different directions and experience a sense of obligation to attend every party and event. This can be extremely draining and increase the desire to turn to drugs or alcohol for a little relief. 

Tips to Avoid Relapse

When you find yourself feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or tempted this holiday season, it can be helpful to come prepared with a few healthy ways of coping. You are bound to experience one or all of the above-mentioned stressors this season. With a history of substance abuse, you are more likely to be tempted to seek drugs or alcohol to cope. Instead, consider these tips to avoid relapse. 

#1. Make Time for Yourself

You have probably heard how important self-care is for your overall well-being a million times. Taking the time to care for yourself can make a huge difference in the way you feel and handle stress. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. 

The holiday season can be very demanding in every way. It can be mentally, emotionally, physically, and even financially demanding. In order to respond well to everything coming your way this time of year, you have to take time for yourself. 

Self-care is not a one-size-fits-all. It can be whatever brings you peace and joy. A few examples could include making time for daily exercise, reading a book, or even going to get a haircut. 

#2. Set Boundaries

Boundary setting is something that requires practice. Having boundaries in place before the holiday season is ideal to avoid becoming too stressed or overwhelmed. If you find yourself in the thick of the chaos and don’t yet have appropriate boundaries, it is not too late. 

The first step to setting boundaries is identifying your needs and limits. Is going to a holiday party at a bar going to be too tempting? Set a boundary to avoid attending events in these environments. Do you tend to overspend and find yourself strapped for cash for months trying to pay off holiday debt? Set a budget and stick to it. 

#3. Stay Connected

Holiday stress is inevitable. Knowing this, it is important to stay connected through your alumni program or to your sponsor during this time. The Band of Brothers alumni program offers many events and activities throughout the holiday season to help you remain on track and engaged. 

Attending meetings and communicating with your sponsor can also help you avoid relapse during this time. If you need help locating a sponsor or a meeting near you, using an app can be helpful. 

Despite the hustle and bustle of the holidays, you can stay on track and focused on your recovery. By following the tips listed above, you can remain proactive and vigilant. You are bound to experience some stress this holiday season. Be sure you are prepared to handle it in healthy ways that support your sobriety. 

The stress of the holiday season can lead many to use substances to cope. If you are struggling with substance abuse, choosing healthier ways of dealing with stress and tension can be tough. It is essential to come into the holiday season equipt with coping strategies and healthy boundaries to help you avoid substance use or relapse. At Renaissance Ranch, we provide clients with the tools needed to navigate difficult times and offer ongoing support through our alumni program. You don’t have to face the holiday season alone. If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, call Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898.