Sobriety and Sanity During the Holidays

Understanding and avoiding the all too common pitfalls during the holidays, and integrating relapse prevention to better maintain sobriety from drug or alcohol addiction.


Happy Holidays from Arizona Addiction Recovery CenterWell it’s that time of year again, the time when it seems like everyone in recovery is constantly reminding you to stay close to your sober circle. They’ll say things like, “Your addiction (or alcoholism) does not observe holiday breaks,” or some other witty yet very accurate cliche. Sometimes it almost feels like it could have an opposite effect and possibly even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nonetheless however, drug and alcohol addiction remains in full swing no matter what time of year it is, and those with ample relapse experience will surely agree with that!

The holidays are known to have varying effects on those in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, and often times those effects manifest in negative ways. In fact, for those of you out there that have been in a residential or outpatient drug rehab program, you probably remember discussing this reality in some of your relapse prevention groups or some other type of therapy sessions.

There are a number of reasons behind the slippery slope of holiday relapse, such as:

  • The added stress of prolonged family presence
  • An increased presence of alcohol
  • Less time available for recovery (i.e., 12-Step meetings, speaking/visiting with sponsor, etc.) in lieu of holiday or family plans during this brief period
  • Anxiety or depression brought on by any number of things, such as family strife, bad memories from years past and disruption in normal sleep and diet patterns
  • Disappointment, envy or even anger with respect to gifts
  • Seeing the happiness and success of others and using that to falsely justify your own failures or lack of success in life

Emerging through the Holidays with Sobriety & Recovery In Tact

Getting through the holidays with sobriety in tact is much harder for some people than it is for others. For instance, it’s commonly believed that alcoholics have a tougher battle since drug addicts aren’t typically faced with cocaine or heroin on the dinner table. On the other hand, wine, champagne and egg nog with rum are most certainly holiday staples. The fact is that no matter where you are in sobriety, newcomer, old timer or somewhere in the middle, anyone with a history of substance abuse is a candidate for a higher likelihood for relapse during this time of year.

Different regions around the country also have varying degrees of community support options. Here in Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ for instance, we have an amazing spread of strong 12-Step fellowship groups such as AA and NA, as well as other non 12-Step approaches like SMART Recovery. As a matter of fact, on any given national holiday you might find anywhere from 4 to 6 locations throughout both, Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona regions that offer marathon meetings. Some of them even have potlucks that could make one think they’re at a 5-star buffet!

So how can one best ensure that he or she make it through the holidays with sobriety and sanity in tact? Here are a few common suggestions that are certain to help keep you on the right track…

  • First and foremost, remind yourself that there is no such thing as a free pass or a holiday freebie or anything of the like that completely contradicts the reality that, once you start there is no stopping
  • Do your best to remain connected and on schedule with your day to day recovery network, whether this means your scheduled meetings, commitments, calling/seeing your sponsor/sponsee, assignments, stepwork, etc
  • Try and stay well rested and don’t allow yourself to go completely overboard on holiday meals, sweets, treats and so forth
  • Choose your plans with caution and don’t place yourself in risky situations – just because it’s a work holiday party doesn’t mean you’re obligated to potentially jeopardize your sobriety
  • Being around family for extended periods of time can be a great opportunity to practice love, tolerance and understanding. When annoying uncle Charlie gets drunk and starts mocking you for not being able to drink, just get up and go for a walk or go chat with someone else…
  • Remember to stay grateful for all you have in life and appreciative for all of the wonderful people who helped you along the way. As a matter of fact, this would be a wonderful time to call or email them with just even a simple statement of acknowledgement that you will always remember the help they gave
  • Have a backup plan – if you’re at a party or some function that gets you spun out then have a good excuse to tell people for leaving
  • Most importantly, if you see trouble on the horizon then get up, get into a safe zone and get into action! If it’s a situation that might be construed as you being a bit rude then that should be the worst thing that ever happens to you

This is a time for joy, family, love, song, food and festivity. At the same rate, this is also a time to be of service for those less fortunate, and in doing so you further solidify your place in this world as a sober and productive member of society Try and lighten up at times and remember not to take everything at face value. Keep sobriety #1 at ALL times and never forget that once sobriety becomes #2, it might as well be #100. For those of you in and around the Phoenix or Scottsdale, Arizona regions, we welcome you to come on by and share in our wonderful holiday parties, meetings and other recovery based celebrations we’ll be sharing in. Call AARC 7 days a week for more information at 602.346.9130.



AARC ~ Arizona Addiction Recovery Center