Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Preventing Relapse: Tips for Staying Sober During the Holidays

The holidays are a time for family and celebration, but it can also be a trying time for those in recovery. Whether through social pressure, the abundance of time on your hands, or the availability of alcohol at nearly every event, there are many triggers that can set a person down the path of relapse during the holidays. To help you stay sober, we will explore tips for staying sober during the holidays in this article. 

Learn more about relapse and ways to prevent it. Click here.

Reexamine Your Triggers

The holiday period is a time when normal habits and daily routines can stop for a time. This can put someone in recovery is a precarious position because the triggers they are used to aren’t necessarily the ones they will experience during this time.

One of the tips for staying sober during the holidays is to reassess your triggers with the holiday period in mind. One of the acronyms to remember is HALT, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Feeling any of these emotions without an appropriate response can be the catalyst to relapse.

Assess the Risks Involved with Each Situation

As a part of your relapse prevention plan, you should have a list of all the known triggers that you have. Before attending a party or get together, examine the risks of going. You can rank each of these situations as either low, medium, or high risk. For example, if your triggers involve certain friends and parties with an open bar or loud music, then an event with those elements should be considered high risk.

If you are in early recovery, it is advised that you only attend events that are low risk, such as an event without any alcohol. During the first 12 months of recovery, research suggest that between 40 and 60 percent of people will have a slip and abuse drugs or alcohol again. If you have maintained your sobriety for a longer time, following your relapse prevention plan closely, then you may consider going to medium and high-risk events, but only if you have a plan to deal with the triggers and an exit strategy if things become too much to handle.

Bring Your Own Snacks and Drinks

Many frequently enjoyed foods and drinks during the holidays are made with alcohol, such as a Christmas rum cake and eggnog, and it’s customary to have a drink during some events, such as during toasts and the New Year countdown.

How to prevent relapse during holidays if you are going to an event where this type of situation is a possibility can be to bring your own food, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages. You can even get non-alcoholic champagne so that you don’t feel left out or pressured by others.

Take Every Day One Day at a Time

One of the things that can make it difficult to stay sober is when a person is faced with the many weeks and months ahead of them in recovery when they feel overwhelmed today. One of the most important tips for staying sober during the holidays is to remind yourself that cravings don’t last forever. In fact, they tend to only last for about 5 to 30 minutes.

A good strategy for holiday relapse prevention is to only consider the day ahead of you, focusing on how you are going to prevent relapse on that day. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Maintain Energy and Blood Sugar

With routines being put on hold for the time being, a part of holiday relapse prevention is about remembering to eat regularly, and healthy. Low blood sugar can lead to feelings of irritability and anxiety, which can compound onto feelings you may be dealing with already.

How to prevent relapse during holidays can be about having a snack or a meal every three hours to maintain your body’s energy and blood sugar levels.

Practice What You Will Say

You will inevitably see many family and friends that you haven’t seen or spoken to recently, and they might not know about your sobriety goals. Without knowing, they may offer you alcohol or question you about the lack of alcohol you’re drinking. One of the tips for staying sober during the holidays is to prepare what you are going to say to both avoid drinking and to avoid you or the other person feeling awkward.

You may not be ready to share your sobriety, in which case you can prepare what to say that doesn’t involve revealing your situation. Keeping a non-alcoholic drink in your hand at all times can also help to prevent any questions, too.


The holidays can be about sharing and giving to those less fortunate. Another of the tips for staying sober during the holidays is to take part in the giving by dedicating some of your time to help those in need. It can offer an opportunity for spiritual growth and it can help to fill loneliness that you may feel. It can give you something different to do that might change your perspective entirely from lonely and isolated to being part of the love that is shared during the holidays.

Use Your Support System

As a part of your relapse prevention plan, you should have a list of people that you can contact to help you prevent relapse. Along with sponsors, friends, and family that you can call if things get too tough, if you go to support group meetings such as AA, then the holidays might be a good time to go to a few more meetings than usual. Make use of your support system, especially during the holidays when it can become tougher to stay sober.

Have Distractions

One of the things that can make dealing with cravings difficult is the abundance of free time. Not having anything to do apart from letting your thoughts run wild can make it that much harder to get over your cravings. This is why it can be helpful to have distractions available.

Considered inviting a friend who doesn’t drink to an event that you are attending so that you have someone to talk to that won’t add to your cravings. If this isn’t an option, then you can offer your assistance to the host of the event in order to keep yourself busy.

Don’t let the holidays overwhelm you. Follow your relapse prevention plan, and double up on your self-care and coping techniques if you need to. There is always help available at Better Addiction Care, too. Call us at 1-800-429-7690.