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5 Common Relapse Triggers and How to Avoid Them

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The holidays can be a difficult season to navigate if you are currently recovering from a substance use disorder. Here are 5 common relapse triggers and how you can avoid them.

1. Stress
This is the most common reason for relapse, since many people who previously coped with stress by indulging in drugs or alcohol, now do not know where to turn.

  • To avoid relapsing due to stress, first identify why you are feeling stressed, and then explore new ways to de-stress: this could be done through baking, painting, exercising, meditating or another activity that you enjoy doing. 

2. Loneliness


This year may be especially isolating for many, due to the effects of COVID-19.

  • Lean on your support system: If you are struggling with temptations to relapse, tell someone. Know that you do not have to try to manage this on your own, and admitting that you are struggling does not make you weak. Try to stay as connected with loved ones as much as possible. If you are unable to be with your loved ones in person over the holiday season, try to interact with them over FaceTime or Zoom as much as possible to stay connected. 

3. People/places associated with addictive behavior

  • Avoid tempting situations: if you are struggling with wanting to drink alcohol, try to avoid places where alcohol may be served, and avoid people who are likely to pressure you to drink. Prepare for these situations ahead of time by coming up with a few phrases that allow you to say “no” strongly and effectively.   

4. Times of celebration
Whether holiday celebrations evoke positive or negative feelings, alcohol is commonly served as a way to celebrate.

  • Instead of celebrating with alcohol, try starting new, recovery-positive traditions. You could try hosting a sober party, or having a Christmas bake-off with friends. Consider doing this during the daytime rather than at night, to avoid further temptations to drink. 

5. Overconfidence
Just because you have been sober for a time, does not make you invincible to the temptations of relapsing. You could be thinking, “it’s just a sip, I can handle it” when participating in a celebratory toast, but that one sip could be a slippery slope that you don’t want to go down.  

  • Set your intentions at the start of each day: Writing your goals down on a piece of paper makes it more likely that you will achieve that goal. Even if they are simple, every day goals, it helps to have a set plan on what you want to accomplish. 

Remember that a relapse is not a failure. If recovery was easy, everyone would do it. Instead of giving up after a relapse, try to determine which emotions or situations led you to relapse so that you know how to effectively handle them in the future. If you were able to be sober once, you can do it again. Download our free ebook for more ideas on how to stay sober during the holidays, and if you need support during this time, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can give you a free consultation and help you find a treatment program that is best suited for you.