How To Manage Holiday Stress

The holidays can be a challenge for many people, but for people who are alcoholics or drug addicts in rehabilitation, holiday stress can make trying to stay sober they can be especially difficult. 

Holiday Stress Can Present Triggers For Your Alcoholism Or Drug Use 

The holidays can be stressful due to travel, a break in routine, and especially for alcoholics and drug addicts, they are times when lots of alcohol is consumed. Parties where alcohol is served abound, and meetings with family when newly sober are a common source of holiday stress. The holidays can also offer opportunities for those who have been abstaining from drugs and alcohol to run into former accomplices that are still using and provide temptation. 

But there is help if you are an alcoholic or drug abuser, and no longer want to be. Here at Addiction Recovery Institute Of America we offer many services to alcoholics and drug abusers to get clean and stay that way. Below we’ve compiled a list of what you can do when holiday stressors threaten your recovery.  

Trigger Risks During The Holidays

“Triggers” to alcohol and drug use relapse are anything that tempt the addict to use again. These can be anything from seeing old acquaintances with whom drugs or alcohol was used, to visiting places where drugs or alcohol were consumed, to being around the use of drugs and alcohol. Holiday stress can by a trigger all by itself and holiday events can manifest more than one of these other triggering factors.

Triggers especially present around the holidays include: 

  • Social gatherings where alcohol or drugs are being consumed
  • Stress around travel and family gatherings
  • Negative emotions associated with the holidays and being around family
  • Loneliness
  • Changes in daily routine 
  • Financial stressors like purchasing presents and traveling

The first step to keeping sober is to know your triggers. If you know some of your triggers will be more present during the holidays, it’s helpful to have a plan to mitigate these triggers.

How To Manage Holiday Stress As An Addict

Below you’ll find some tips on managing the holidays as an addict. Remember, your sobriety is more important than just about anything— your sobriety impacts your family as well— so it must always be taken into account when making plans and preparing. Some things you can do to make the journey a bit easier: 

Say No

This one is less obvious than it seems. During the holidays you may have to say no more often than you used to. This doesn’t just involve saying no to alcohol or drugs, but saying no to gatherings that might stress you out, to travel outside your timeline or budget, or anything else that can be a trigger for relapse. 

Don’t Skip Meetings

During the holidays there can be a temptation to skip recovery meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. This is not a good idea. Holiday stress is one more reason why you need support in your life, so use them, especially around the holidays. Most often if you cannot attend your regular meeting in person, there are meetings that are held online as well as in-person meetings near the place you are traveling.   

Remain In Contact With Your Support System

In the same vein as above, don’t forget to remain in contact with those who help keep you sober— recovery buddies, recovery mentors, friends and family who are sober and/or supportive. During times of stress you will need all of your support, perhaps even more than normal. Keep in contact with them.

Serve Others

It can be tempting to think of oneself during the holidays when in recovery but a big way to stave off loneliness, feel good, and raise your self esteem is to serve others. Volunteering is also a great way to distract yourself from holiday stress and places where drinking and drug use could be a trigger.  


Exercise is a natural mood booster. It can also help deal with cravings and get rid of some of the excess energy you may have. During the holidays there is often the temptation to skip workout sessions, but this may be when you need them the most. If you travel, some gyms offer single or week long sessions that you can purchase, and there are always bodyweight exercises like pushups as well as running and walking outside. 

Talk About Your Thoughts And Feelings

It can be helpful for your friends and family to understand what it means to be in recovery and to understand your triggers for using again. Talking with those around you can be a good way to help them understand what you have a hard time being exposed to and what situations can be triggering for your use. It can also help you feel better to talk to someone you love, as well as help your loved ones understand what you are going through. 

Recovery Help Is Available For Alcohol And Drug Abuse

If you are in recovery for drug or alcohol abuse, or if you suspect you may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, you can contact us anytime at the Addiction Recovery Institute of America by calling (844) 973-2611. ARIA offers all different kinds of treatment plans to fit your unique situation. Drug and alcohol addiction are treatable diseases, and we are here to help.