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Tips for Maintaining Your Recovery Path During the Holidays

The holiday season is a special time of year. This period of time is often meant to be joyous, celebratory, and uplifting, but the reality of it is holidays can be difficult and trying times…and that even without adding trying to maintain positive recovery. The gatherings, the temptation, the triggers, the mixed emotions, dealing with family. All of these situations are incredibly stressful. How can we survive, no thrive, during the holiday season? Below are some tips.

Know where to find recovery support

Holidays often require travel. Look ahead of time to see what types of recovery support are available in the area you’ll be in. The old days of word of mouth or digging out a massive phone book are over. There are plenty of mobile apps, website listings, and hotlines which will easily put you in contact with local support or list where you are able to attend your favorite recovery meeting (or sometimes ANY recovery meeting). Even if you aren’t traveling, schedules can change over the holidays so be aware of how your normal support groups are impacted.

Bring your own recovery support

If it makes sense for you, have a recovery buddy when you travel or go to gatherings. This doesn’t have to be some professional you hire. This could be a supportive family member, friend, or sponsor that can join you and help keep you focused on your goals. You also may want to take recovery materials with you like books, CDs, mobile apps, journals, etc. Whatever helps you find some peace.

Find that attitude of gratitude

Life sometimes leaves us feeling like we don’t have much to appreciate or to be thankful for. Try cultivating gratitude by listing a few things you are grateful for each day. Be intentional about gratitude. Slow down, breathe, find a center, experience the moment. Pay attention to the little things that light your life or give you purpose. Still struggling? Maybe spend some time volunteering or helping others.

Make some new traditions

Nothing dictates we have to follow old traditions that may be triggering, difficult or toxic. Go on and make some new ones! Find new activities that align with your recovery and your values. Share these activities with loved ones if you wish and maybe you’ll discover a new tradition you can build on year after year.

Don’t forget the acronym H.A.L.T.

Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired. These physical and mental states can actually be threats to us if we find ourselves in them for too long. All of these states lead us to impulsive behaviors which often are not thought out or are unhealthy to our recovery. Manage these states and keep an awareness on your physical and mental self to make sure you don’t start to deteriorate because you neglected basic needs.


No. Not literally the emergency phone number (hopefully that is not needed). Have an emergency plan. What do you do if you are too triggered, too upset, or in a situation you don’t want to be in? If you plan this out ahead of time, should crisis arrive, you may find it easier to manage. And, while not necessarily an emergency, this could also include refusal skills or rehearsing situations where you feel you may need to explain your recovery situation. A little forethought can go a long way.

Let go of expectations

Don’t get caught up in expectations, whether its creating the perfect day or foreseeing complete catastrophe. We only let ourselves down when we dwell in this territory. Instead focus on practicing some mindfulness and enjoying the moment if possible. When feelings come up, allow yourself to experience them. Normalize them, because they are normal.

This list is by no means comprehensive but hopefully give you some tools in your recovery toolbox to help you stay on track during the holiday season. And if things go slightly awry? Don’t panic. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t give up. Use your resources and get back on the wagon and focus on what you were doing right prior to crisis. Happy holidays all!

Chris Dorian, founder of Know Your Why Recovery

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