5 Common Holiday Triggers for People in Recovery (and How to Cope With Them)

The holiday season is often referred to as the “most wonderful time of the year”, however that does not always ring true for everyone. For instance, many people who are in recovery from a substance use disorder tend to find it especially difficult to cope at this time, as the holidays can be highly triggering for a variety of reasons. However, that does not mean that relapse is imminent, as there are effective ways to cope with the additional stressors of the season.

5 Common Holiday Triggers for People in Recovery

Triggers are people, places, or things that elicit negative emotional responses. During the holidays, you may experience the onset of some new or unexpected triggers, or even get revisited by some old ones. For those in recovery, some of the most commonly shared holiday triggers can often include the following:

  1. Exposure to substances – There are several situations between Thanksgiving and New Years where you may find yourself being exposed to substances like alcohol or marijuana. Chances are the frequency of this exposure will increase during this time, and simple things (such as the sound of a beer can being opened, the smell of marijuana smoke, or even simply seeing someone intoxicated) can all serve as significant triggers.
  2. Changes in routine – Your regular routine is bound to be disrupted at this time, as this is a normal occurrence for most people during the holidays. These changes can affect the support groups you attend, the people you see, how often you work, and what types of environments you visit. These factors, plus being generally unable to adhere to your normal routine, can create stress and anxiety that can be triggering.
  3. Unresolved family issues – Depending on where you are at in your recovery, you may be facing a handful of unresolved family issues that may make getting together for the holidays nerve-racking and uncomfortable. This can lead to an onset of several big emotions that may compromise your mental and physical wellbeing.
  4. Guilt and shame – It’s normal to still experience feelings of guilt and shame regarding your substance use disorder while in recovery, but they may be more likely to get triggered during the holidays. For example, you may see a friend or loved one that you lost touch with because of your addiction, triggering some of these feelings again.
  5. Social anxiety ­– Being uncomfortable around the holidays isn’t entirely abnormal, especially considering how much visiting of friends, family, and loved ones occurs. Being around lots of people can be overwhelming to the point where you may be tempted to drink or use again.

Coping With Holiday Triggers

Being prepared for the holidays and the triggers they may cause is extremely important in your ability to maintain your recovery at this time. One of the most effective ways to cope with holiday triggers is to actively work on your relapse prevention skills throughout the whole year. Doing so will give you time to continue to build on the foundation you have created, making your ability to resist drinking or using drugs again even stronger. You can also put into play some additional skills that might help you make it through the season, such as:

  • Setting healthy boundaries with loved ones
  • Saying “no” to anything that may jeopardize your recovery
  • Having a backup plan in the event you want to remove yourself from a specific environment
  • Beginning or continuing to go to local support group meetings
  • Being mindful about your stress level and slowing down when necessary

Are you or someone you love struggling with a substance use disorder? Reach out to AdCare Treatment Centers right now by calling . We will connect you with one of our experienced and compassionate admissions navigators who can answer all the questions you have. Do not wait – call us now to get started on your recovery journey today. 

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