Overcome Holiday Triggers: Tips & Tools For Recovery

Tis the season to think about the holiday season and what this means for you. For those in recovery, the holidays may not just be a time to celebrate family and friends. It may also cause triggers and urges to slip up in recovery.

Life can become stressful in and of itself. Add holiday parties, the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, very real fears of COVID-19, and you could find yourself triggered quite easily.

This holiday season, take some time to evaluate how the holidays affect you. Do you tend to struggle emotionally during the holidays? Have you relapsed in the past during this time? Are you aware of how you can resist temptation and control urges?

This article will help you get more familiar with your triggers around the holiday season, and how to cope with them.

List Your Triggers

It will help you out to make a list of what might trigger you during the holiday season. Perhaps it’s the holiday work party, where most people will be drinking and carrying on. Or maybe it’s the annual Christmas gathering with your family, where you almost always get into an argument with that one family member.

It may be that you get lonely around the holidays. Or stressing out trying to figure out what gifts to buy. Or this year, dealing with fears of COVID-19.

Make that list of your triggers in advance, so you can prepare yourself in dealing with those triggers.

How To Deal With Holiday Triggers

Regardless of the trigger, your goal is to NOT pick up that drink or drug – whatever your drug of choice was. Identifying potential triggers is your first step toward accomplishing that.

The first thing you can do to deal with holiday triggers is to do what you can to avoid them. Chances are some of your triggers you can avoid. You can choose to skip the holiday parties that will tempt you. You can decide to not get into a power struggle/argument with your family member, you can skip watching holiday movies that will evoke negative emotions, and so on.

No doubt some things that may trigger you are unavoidable. There are alcohol advertisements just about everywhere, and cannabis isn’t far behind. Maybe every time you see such advertisements you can remind yourself that alcohol and drugs only destroy. They don’t cause people to feel happier. Those advertisements don’t show people losing their integrity, family, relationships, jobs, or health.

Remind yourself that you’re not interested in falling for bogus advertisements ever again. You value your sobriety far too much.

Have Support Handy

Just in case you find yourself triggered, know what you will do to get some support. Maybe you can attend a virtual or in-person support group. You can call your sponsor or mentor. Watch videos or listen to podcasts that inspire you to stay sober.

Having a solid support network and using it can help you overcome triggers and stay focused on your recovery.

Pause Before Acting

Learning to pause before acting or reacting can be valuable. For example, let’s say an old friend is in town for the holidays. He calls you up and says, “Hey, let’s meet up for a drink and celebrate!”

Before you respond, pause. Take a deep breath and think for a moment. Play that tape through. If you say yes, what could happen? Could you really be strong enough to resist the temptation to drink? To tell your friend you’ve given up drinking? What if you can’t?

Remind yourself that you have the option to tell your friend that you’d rather not meet in a bar. You could meet at a restaurant or at your home. If this is an old party friend and you just don’t think you can be honest with him about your sobriety or the temptation to drink would be too much, politely decline. It’s alright for you to take care of yourself in a way that secures your sobriety.

Remember to pause before responding. Play the tape through. This can help you battle holiday triggers and keep you on that path of sobriety.

Attend Counseling

If you feel like you could relapse this holiday season due to one reason or another, you may want to reach out to a counselor for support. If you’ve relapsed in the past around the holidays, you may need this extra support to help you overcome holiday triggers.

Consider it a great time to get in there and do some deeper inner healing work. You can take some time to deal with some past issues that may be bringing you down. You can learn more effective skills, such as communication, anger management, conflict resolution, and more. You can take time to talk about how you’re feeling openly and honestly. You’d be surprised at how helpful it can be to just be free to be yourself and say whatever is on your mind with a therapist.

There are many therapists who are doing online video sessions these days. Take advantage of the ease of counseling sessions. Many also offer a sliding fee scale, so if money is an issue, don’t be afraid to ask about reduced fees.

Beating Loneliness

A common complaint around the holidays is loneliness. Many people struggle with family issues and don’t really get together over the holiday season. Or perhaps they live far away from family. With COVID-19, many families are opting to stay apart this holiday season, which may increase feelings of loneliness.

If this may be a trigger for you, brainstorm how you can interact with family or friends over the holidays. Maybe you can arrange a family zoom video meeting. Or FaceTime your loved ones throughout the season. It may not be the same as being together in person, but it can help minimize feelings of loneliness.

You Can Overcome Holiday Triggers

Triggers may increase over the holidays, but there are certain things you can do to minimize, avoid, and overcome them. Know that you’re not alone in walking your sobriety path. We are here to assist you and support you in any way we can.

If you have any questions or concerns about addiction or your recovery journey, feel free to give us a call today. We’d love to have a conversation with you and give you guidance and direction along your recovery journey.


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