Dealing with Cravings and Triggers During the Holidays

Young woman and her friends eating glazed donuts in a cafe.

The holiday season is a time of joy, connection, and celebration for many. However, for those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, it can also be a period fraught with challenges. Dealing with cravings and triggers during the holidays requires a thorough understanding of these concepts and a well-defined strategy. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore these challenges in depth and provide you with an extensive array of strategies and tips to navigate the holiday season successfully while safeguarding your sobriety.

Understanding Cravings and Triggers

Before diving into the strategies for managing cravings and triggers during the holidays, it’s crucial to grasp the fundamentals:


Cravings are intense, overwhelming desires or urges to use drugs or alcohol. They can strike unexpectedly, and during the holidays, the pressure to engage in social drinking or substance use may heighten these cravings.


Triggers are events, situations, or emotions that remind you of past substance use, making you more susceptible to cravings. During the holiday season, various triggers can surface, such as family gatherings, stress, loneliness, or memories associated with past substance use.

Strategies for Handling Cravings and Triggers

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is a fundamental step in mitigating the impact of cravings and triggers during the holidays:

  • Plan Your Schedule: Create a schedule filled with positive activities and events that support your sobriety. This will keep you occupied and less likely to succumb to cravings.
  • Avoid High-Risk Situations: Identify gatherings or places where substance use is prevalent and choose to avoid them.
  • Lean on Your Support System: Share your holiday plans with a trusted friend or family member who can provide encouragement and accountability.

Set Realistic Expectations

It’s essential to have realistic expectations for the holiday season:

  • Accept Imperfection: Understand that not every holiday season will be picture-perfect. There may be challenges, but that doesn’t diminish your progress in recovery.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Make self-care a priority. Ensure you’re taking care of your physical and emotional well-being, as neglecting self-care can amplify triggers and cravings.
  • Focus on the Positive: Reflect on the progress you’ve made in your recovery journey. Celebrate your accomplishments and stay motivated to maintain your sobriety.

Create a Sober Support Network

A strong support network is invaluable during the holidays:

  • Attend Support Meetings: Continue attending 12-step meetings or therapy sessions to receive ongoing guidance and encouragement.
  • Connect with Sober Friends: Spend time with individuals who support your sobriety and understand the challenges you’re facing.
  • Utilize Hotlines: Keep helpline numbers handy for immediate assistance during difficult moments. There are professionals available 24/7 to provide guidance and support.

Practice Mindfulness and Stress Reduction

Managing stress and staying mindful can help you stay on track:

  • Deep Breathing: Practice deep breathing techniques to stay calm when confronted with triggers or cravings.
  • Mindful Meditation: Incorporate mindfulness meditation into your daily routine. Mindfulness can help you stay present and cope with stress more effectively.
  • Exercise Regularly: Engaging in regular physical activity is an excellent way to relieve stress and enhance your overall well-being.

Have an Exit Strategy

Having an exit strategy in place can be a lifesaver when you find yourself in a triggering situation:

  • Know When to Leave: Recognize the signs that a situation is becoming uncomfortable or triggering. Have a plan to exit gracefully when needed.
  • Communicate Boundaries: Don’t hesitate to communicate your boundaries with loved ones. Let them know that your sobriety is a top priority and that you may need to leave certain situations.

Addressing Your Unique Needs

It’s essential to recognize that your recovery journey is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Take the time to identify the strategies that resonate with you and adapt them to your specific situation. Your well-being is paramount, and personalizing your approach is key to success.

Shoreline Recovery Center Can Help

At Shoreline Recovery Center, we are well-acquainted with the challenges of dealing with cravings and triggers during the holidays. Our dedicated team of professionals is committed to providing you with the support and resources necessary to maintain your sobriety and enjoy a healthy, happy holiday season. Reach out to us today to learn more about our comprehensive addiction treatment programs, tailored to meet your individual needs.


Can I still enjoy the holidays in recovery?

Absolutely! With the right strategies and support, you can fully enjoy the holidays without compromising your sobriety. It’s about making informed choices and prioritizing your well-being.

What should I do if I feel overwhelmed by cravings?

If cravings become overwhelming, reach out to your support network immediately. Practice mindfulness techniques, consider contacting a therapist or counselor for guidance, and remember that seeking help is a sign of strength.

Are there specific holiday-related triggers to watch out for?

Common holiday triggers include family gatherings, holiday parties, financial stress, and the memories associated with past substance use. Being aware of these triggers can help you prepare and respond effectively.

How can I politely decline alcohol or drugs offered at holiday events?

Politely but firmly decline by saying, “No, thank you, I’m in recovery and choose not to drink or use.” You can also have a non-alcoholic beverage in hand to avoid offers.

Is it okay to attend holiday events where alcohol is served?

Attending such events depends on your comfort level and readiness. If you do decide to go, bring a sober friend, have a plan to exit if needed, and focus on enjoying the company rather than the substances being offered. Remember, your sobriety is the priority.

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