Family enjoying a sober christmas

The holiday season can be a time of great celebration and happiness for many. However, it can also be a difficult time if certain Christmas triggers stir up stress, anxiety, and even sadness which can lead to poor mental health or addiction relapse.

Whether it’s family conflicts, financial pressures, loneliness, or other challenges, understanding how to cope with these Christmas triggers can lead to a more peaceful and fulfilling Christmas without the threat of relapse.

In this guide, we will explore five common relapse triggers and provide practical relapse prevention strategies to help you overcome Christmas triggers, ensuring that you can navigate the holiday season sober and relaxed.

Christmas Drinking Culture

Drinking alcohol at Christmas is very common, and the period surrounding Christmas to the New Year is often filled with booze and social events that revolve around drinking. This can be a major Christmas trigger for those in addiction recovery, and it can make staying sober at Christmas difficult.

How to Overcome Drinking Culture at Christmas

Avoiding alcohol at Christmas can be a challenge, which is why you need to manage this trigger effectively to avoid relapse. Some of the best ways to overcome drinking culture at Christmas is to reach out to family and loved ones for support maintaining recovery, plan sober Christmas events, and to not be afraid to miss out on triggering events.

It is also good to set yourself clear and personal intentions for a sober Christmas. Reflect on your reasons for wanting to steer clear of alcohol and remind yourself of these motivations throughout the holiday period. Find out more tips to avoid alcohol at Christmas here.

Financial Stress

The pressure to buy gifts, host gatherings, or travel during Christmas can lead to financial stress which can be a trigger for alcohol relapse. Overspending and budget concerns can trigger anxiety and worry, which can be hard for those in recovery to manage as stress is one of the leading factors of addiction relapse.
It is important to learn to cope with financial concerns and reach out for help or advice if you need it.

How to Manage Financial Stress at Christmas

Some of the best ways to avoid additional financial stress is by creating a budget, making thoughtful gift choices, and exploring cost-effective ways to celebrate Christmas. Reducing expectations for the holidays and reaching out for help can alleviate this stress and reduce the financial burden.


For some, Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year, especially if they are far from loved ones or have experienced significant losses. Social isolation during the holidays can trigger sadness and depression which are relapse triggers for people in alcohol addiction recovery over the holidays.

Avoiding loneliness and seeking support from others is a good way to manage this common Christmas trigger.

How to Improve Loneliness at Christmas

Some ways to reduce loneliness at Christmas is by engaging in community events, volunteering, or reaching out to friends and support networks can combat loneliness. Involving yourself in weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other recovery support groups can also help you to feel less alone and keep yourself accountable in your recovery journey.

Grief and Loss

Christmas is often a hard reminder of loved ones who are no longer with us. Coping with grief and loss during the holiday season can be particularly challenging and may trigger feelings of sadness and cause you to seek alcohol or drugs to cope with these feelings.

How to Cope with Grief at Christmas

Coping with grief with Christmas can be hard and is one of the biggest Christmas triggers there is. Some ways to cope with these feelings and avoid relapse is by connecting with a support system, honouring the memory of those lost, and seeking professional help if needed.

These tactics are great ways to manage Christmas relapse triggers and maintain your sobriety.

Mental Health

Christmas time often brings a large rush of emotions, and whilst it may be a positive time for some, for others Christmas can lead to a spike in mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. Coping with poor mental health can be challenging and a relapse trigger, so knowing how to cope with mental health conditions during the Christmas period is key to staying sober.

Ways to Manage Mental Health Over Christmas

Your mental health can be a huge relapse trigger, so taking care of your mental wellbeing is extremely important over the festive season. Spending time with loved ones, practicing mindfulness techniques and reaching out for help are all useful ways to manage your mental health.

Top Tips to Overcome Relapse Triggers at Christmas

Overcoming the drinking culture during Christmas can be extremely difficult, especially if you are new to recover. There are a number of ways that you can still enjoy Christmas without alcohol, however avoiding triggers is vital.

See some strategies to help you navigate and resist the pressure to consume alcohol during the holiday season and tips to maintain a sober Christmas:

1. Communicate Your Decision: Inform your friends and family about your decision to have a sober Christmas. Open and honest communication can help manage expectations and reduce any pressure to drink which can help you stay sober.
2. Offer Alternative Plans: Plan and provide non-alcoholic beverage options at gatherings and parties. Delicious mocktails, sparkling water, or alcohol-free beers can make it easier for you and others to enjoy festive drinks without the alcohol.
3. Find Sober Support: Seek out like-minded individuals who are also choosing to stay sober during the holidays. Joining support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, whether in person or online, can provide a sense of community and encouragement to continue sobriety over Christmas.
4. Plan Sober Activities: Plan activities that don’t revolve around alcohol. Engage in holiday-themed events like ice skating, carolling, or attending a holiday market, as creating new traditions centred around sober activities can be enjoyable and fulfilling.
5. Practice Assertiveness: Be prepared to politely decline alcoholic drinks when offered. Practice assertive responses, such as saying, “No, thank you” or “I’m choosing not to drink this holiday season.” Remember that you have the right to make choices that align with your well-being, and setting clear boundaries can boost your confidence and reduce the likelihood or relapse.
6. Lean on Supportive Friends and Family: Identify family members or friends who support your decision to stay sober and ask for their assistance to manage any peer pressure you may face. Having allies who understand and respect your choice can be invaluable.
7. Self-Care and Stress Management: Develop healthy coping strategies to manage stress and emotions during the holidays. This can include mindfulness exercises, deep breathing, meditation, or hobbies that you enjoy.
8. Celebrate Your Achievements: As you progress through the holiday season without alcohol, celebrate your achievements and milestones. Recognise and reward yourself for staying sober over Christmas and make short term goals if you are struggling to manage triggers.

By planning ahead, seeking support, and staying true to your goals, you can successfully overcome the drinking culture and enjoy a festive season while remaining sober. If you need support to help you overcome common Christmas triggers, phone +44 (0) 800 012 6006 today.