Addiction and the Holidays: Avoid Triggers & Fight Cravings

Fighting Addiction During the Holidays

The holidays are a time for family, friends, and fun. But they can also be a difficult time for those who are struggling with addiction. The pressure to drink or use drugs can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a strong support system. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction during the holidays, some steps can be taken to make it through this difficult time. Addiction and the holidays don’t need to go hand-in-hand. This article will discuss some of the best ways to fight addiction during the holidays.

Why the Holidays Can Be Difficult for Those With Addiction

Holiday stress can be experienced by anyone, but it can be especially difficult for those dealing with addiction. Not only are there holiday parties and social events where alcohol or drugs may be present, but the season is often full of stressors such as financial worries, family conflict, drama, and relationship issues. All of these things can be triggers that lead to relapse.

If you believe your addiction has become too difficult to handle alone, it is essential to seek the help of a treatment facility [1]. Summit Detox offers a range of addiction treatment programs and resources tailored to meet the needs of individuals. Contact us today to learn more about our programs.

What are triggers?

Triggers are people, places, things or situations that can cause a person to have the urge to use drugs or alcohol. Some of the most common types of triggers include:

  • Negative emotions: Stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression can all be addiction triggers.
  • Positive emotions: Excitement, joy, and anticipation can lead to an urge to use drugs or alcohol to boost the euphoria these emotions bring on.
  • People: Certain family members or friends who use drugs or drink heavily can also be triggers for a person with an addiction.
  • Places: Certain environments like bars and clubs may increase the risk of relapse due to their association with drinking or drug use.
  • Things: Even objects like certain bottles or cans can cause a relapse in some people suffering from addiction during the holidays.

How to avoid triggers during the holiday season

Though avoiding exposure to all triggers may seem impossible, several steps can be taken to make it easier to fight addiction during the holidays.

  • Avoid High-Risk Situations: Staying away from high-risk situations like gatherings where alcohol or drugs will be present can help reduce temptation and the risk of relapse. If you must attend holiday events, it’s best to limit your exposure by only going for a short time and not drinking or using drugs.
  • Find healthy distractions: Find activities that don’t involve drug or alcohol use that can help you avoid triggers and stay healthy. This could include spending quality time with friends, watching movies, exercising, or volunteering.
  • Follow a routine: Having a daily routine can help you stay focused and motivated. Plan ahead for each day, including attending meetings, going to therapy, or meeting with your support group. While your holiday schedule may be booked, having a set routine can be very helpful in preventing relapse or withdrawal symptoms [2] during this challenging time of the year.

How to cope with addiction cravings

Cravings are potent desires for drugs or alcohol. They can be tough to resist, especially if you are trying to stay sober during the holidays. Cravings occur when the brain is deprived of the dopamine reward [3] it usually gets from drugs or alcohol. When a person stops using substances, dopamine levels decrease, and cravings intensify.f

Depending on the severity of your addiction during the holidays, you may or may not experience intense cravings. Cravings are a normal part of the addiction recovery process and can be challenging to manage. Here are some tips to help cope with cravings:

  • Talk about it: Talking to family, friends, or a support group about your cravings can help you realize that everyone has moments of weakness and that giving in is not the only option. You can also call a hotline like the National Drug Helpline if you need someone to talk to.
  • Distract yourself: Finding something else to occupy your time is one of the best ways to cope with cravings. Try activities such as reading a book [4], walking, playing an instrument, or watching TV.
  • Remember your goals: Keeping your long-term goals in mind can help you stay focused on the path to recovery. Write down why you are trying to fight addiction and refer back to it when cravings become too strong. New years resolutions are also a great way to stay motivated and remind yourself of your goals.

Techniques you can use to manage cravings

In addition, there are also several techniques that you can use to help manage cravings, such as:

  • Deep breathing: This helps reduce anxiety and stress, two of the most common triggers for cravings. To do this, find a quiet and comfortable place to sit, close your eyes and focus on the sensation of each breath.
  • Grounding exercises: These activities can help you stay in the present moment and distract yourself from cravings. Examples of grounding exercises include counting objects around you or focusing on what you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel.
  • Positive affirmations: Reciting positive phrases like “I can do this” or “I am strong enough to resist” can help you stay focused on your goals.
  • Visualization: Imagining a different place or situation where triggers don’t surround you can help you stay away from the substances that cause cravings.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique [5] involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group to help release tension and reduce anxiety.
  • Yoga: Practicing yoga [6] can help you become more in tune with your body and release pent-up emotions that could lead to cravings.

With so many coping strategies, knowing which will work best for your individual situation can be difficult. If you’re overwhelmed or unsure of what to do, reach out to a doctor or mental health professional for help. At Summit Detox, we have a highly qualified team of professionals who can offer advice and support when managing cravings. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs.

Build a support system

Addiction during the holidays can be an isolating experience, and having a strong support system is one of the most critical factors in preventing relapse. Support systems offer encouragement and accountability, which can help keep you on the path to recovery.

Family and friends are a natural place to start when looking for support, but it’s also essential to connect with professionals who understand addiction and recovery. Treatment centers often have alum programs that offer support and resources, and 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous typically have meetings in most communities.

Online communities can also be a great source of support. Many forums and websites are dedicated to helping people recover from addiction, and these can be great resources for information, advice, and support.

Celebrate your success

Shifting your perspective from fearing relapse during the holidays to celebrating your successes can be a powerful tool in preventing relapse.

Recovery is a journey, and it’s important to celebrate your accomplishments along the way. The holidays are a perfect time to reflect on how far you have come in your recovery and give yourself credit for all your progress. Reward yourself with small gifts [7] or activities you enjoy, such as a spa day, a movie night, or a new book.

Understanding your addiction

Many people who suffer from addiction never take the time to understand why they are addicted in the first place and how addiction affects your body and mind. Some steps to take to understand your addiction include:

  • Educating yourself about the chemical processes involved in addiction: By understanding the physical effects of addiction, you can better understand your own experiences. This can help reduce any sense of panic or fear when cravings become too strong since you will be more aware of what is happening in your body.
  • Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you process emotions without lashing out or using substances. Journaling can also help you find specific patterns in your behavior and better understand triggers for cravings.
  • Engaging in therapy: Talking to a therapist or counselor can help you gain insight into the underlying causes of your addiction and work through any trauma contributing to it.
  • Talking to an addiction specialist: Addiction during the holidays is different for everyone, and an addiction specialist can provide personalized advice to help you recover.

By taking the time to understand your addiction and learn new coping strategies, you can increase your chances of maintaining sobriety during the holidays and beyond.

Bottom line

The holidays don’t have to be a time of struggle for those in recovery from addiction. With the right coping strategies and support system, you can stay in control and enjoy this special time of year without returning to your old habits. Taking proactive steps to prevent relapse is vital, so make sure you’re doing everything possible to keep yourself on the path to sobriety. If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to Summit Detox for help.

At Summit Detox, we have a team of experienced clinicians ready to provide quality care and support throughout the treatment process. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and get started on your journey toward long-term sobriety.



[1] https://www.summitdetox.com/blog/what-to-look-for-in-a-drug-rehab-treatment-facility/

[2] https://www.summitdetox.com/blog/how-to-manage-alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31905114/

[4] https://www.summitdetox.com/blog/11-best-dramatic-recovery-books/

[5] https://dhss.alaska.gov/health/dph/Director/Pages/opioids/support.aspx

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33201991/

[7] https://www.summitdetox.com/blog/7-gifts-for-a-recovering-loved-one/

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