How to Handle the Holidays While in Recovery

It’s That Time Of The Year Again

While Christmas is typically a time for joy for most, to those of us who battle addiction this can be one of the most trying times of the year.  Jennifer Smith, former secretary of the state department of Drug and Alcohol Programs for Pennsylvania noted, “Strained relationships and triggering environments like celebrations with drinking or drug use can put people in situations with the potential for a relapse, and spending more time with family may bring a loved one’s unknown struggles into light,” For those in recovery in particular the holiday season brings with it an overwhelming range of emotions which can trigger the desire to use. Here are some things that we can do in order to protect your recovery and make the most out of this wonderful time of the year.

12 Tips for Christmas


  • Proper Planning – Plan your schedule and design it so that the majority of your time is spent around people who are supportive of your recovery journey
  • Have an Escape Plan – have a plan in place to get away from a situation that has become hazardous.  You can find a friend in recovery that you can plan this with.
  • Continue Practicing Your Program – it can be tempting to ease up in your program and let your recovery take a backseat.  This is exactly what we DO NOT need to do. We should actually step up our recovery a notch in order to protect ourselves in this dangerous time.
  • Make A Call List – have a list of numbers you can call when you need someone to talk to.  People will be busy so make sure you have an extensive list… at least 10 people.
  • Be Honest – Let family and friends know that you are in recovery.  Those who care for you will likely be glad to help hold you accountable and offer support.
  • Avoid Old People, Places, and Things – this is a simple recovery basic need!
  • Time Takes Time – If you have strained relationships with loved ones try and understand that this will not last forever.  Trust takes time to build and a second to destroy. The only way to build the trust back is to consistently show that you are worthy of trust. The number one way to do this is to STAY CLEAN.
  • Lean on Your Local Recovery Community – they are aware of the dangers of this time of the year and oftentimes provide safe places for people to gather. You can find a list of open houses/events for the NA Community in our area:
  • Your Recovery = Your Responsibility – Be sure to make sure the beverages that are being served do not contain alcohol.  This is YOUR responsibility. Accidental slips can lead to purposeful use.
  • Volunteer – There are a ton of volunteer opportunities in the area.  Find one and be of service to others. It’s a sure fire way to avoid the self-obsession that often precedes relapse.  Not to mention that volunteering has been proven to produce endorphins causing what is generally referred to as “helper’s high.”
  • Count Your Blessings, Make a Gratitude List – This is a well know cure to defeating the holiday blues. We can do this daily and revert back to it in times of need, or just make a whole new list!
  • Focus on Today –  the past is over and the future is yet to come. Forget about what  happened or what COULD happen. Enjoy the day, it’s all you have!



~ Written by Ryan Riggs, a person in long-term recovery and REAL LIFE Case Manager