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Relapse Prevention at Christmas

christmas alcoholic drink with gold baubles and fairy lights

Christmas is traditionally a time of celebration, catching up with friends old and new, and reminiscing on the year gone by. Unfortunately, a lot of those celebrations, gatherings and get togethers centre heavily around alcohol, and drugs can be prominent too. From raising a glass to proposing a toast, and going to the pub on Christmas Eve, so many of our festive traditions are marked with a glass of something that is labelled as merry. The reality is that it can be a lot more sinister.

Christmas can be a difficult time for those in recovery, especially people who are in their first year. If alcohol or drug addiction is part of your recent past, avoiding a relapse at Christmas can be a nerve-wracking time. Everything can feel a lot more charged, hyped up and pressurised. The pitfalls can feel harder to spot and step around in time.

If you’re wanting to avoid a drug or alcohol relapse, and wondering how to navigate the festive season safely whilst still enjoying yourself, we have some tips for you.

Gather your support network

Having the right people around you is a key element to a sober Christmas without relapse. If possible, connect up with your most supportive friends and relatives  during the festive season, and don’t put yourself in any situations where peer pressure may be present. The right people won’t even think about pressuring you to ‘just have one’ or drag you to the toilet to share what they have in their back pocket. Remember, if anyone does this, it’s usually about them needing to have a drink or use drugs, rather than you.

Be the host with the most

You can be the one to host a dinner, a party, or maybe something more low-key like a games night. You’re in control of the scene, the arrival times and the guest list, plus – if it’s up your street – you can ask people to bring a non-alcoholic drink with them. From lemonade to non-alcohol spirits, fancy teas to 0% beer, you’re guaranteed a sober party but one that is full of flavour. Dare to be different, and you never know, it might take the pressure off someone else too.

Plan your social calendar

Really take the time to evaluate the places and parties that you’re invited to. It may mean you spend a little longer thinking rather than jumping to a YES on your RSVP, but it means you can make a considered decision and ensure you have enough time to yourself throughout the festive season. Self care in recovery cannot be abandoned, particularly at Christmas! It’s better to say yes to less, and then have a positive time, than to overload yourself with a non-stop schedule that adds to your stress.

Make your circle aware

It would be wrong of us to assume that everyone in your life knows the journey you are on, so if there are some trusted people who haven’t been updated, it is best to make them aware of your recovery before diving head-first into festivities. It doesn’t have to be a long and deep conversation, it can be a text or a phone call, or a catch up over coffee. With your inner circle, it’s good that they know you are not drinking or using drugs anymore, so they can support your decision.

Have some festive fun

While all this sounds like a rule book, the biggest thing is to make sure you still have fun. Drugs and alcohol aren’t essentials to a night of fun, memories, and laughter. The longer you are in recovery, the quality of your social conversations, enjoyment, and how much you can remember, will all go up. Surround yourself with the right people in the right places, and allow yourself to be in the moment and enjoy every second. Sober life opens up a whole new world of possibilities, opportunities, and a different kind of fun (without embarrassment, regret and headaches the next day).

Know your boundaries

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, to head to an after party or back to someone’s house after the pub or club. Now, while this isn’t always a bad idea, it is something to take care of (particularly if you’re in the early days of recovery). If you’re with people who are drinking and using, their levels might be getting quite high later on. So, know your boundaries and when you want to head home, and be rock-steady in your decision. Fear of missing out can be at play here, so it’s important to remember that there are always more opportunities to hang out with friends – you don’t need to pack it all into one (very long) night.

Support with addiction relapse

If you do relapse over Christmas, know that there is support and help available to you. While it isn’t what we want for you, we will never judge you and we will always be here to listen, as well as a number of other organisations that will be best placed to support your next steps following a relapse. Contact us in confidence to find out more about alcohol treatment or drug treatment at Help Me Stop.

About Help Me Stop

Help Me Stop is a non-residential rehab offering based in London and Winchester, with an online rehab programme too. We knew that there was a gap for affordable and accessible rehab in the UK, and now we treat clients all over the world. 

Our programmes are based around integrative psychotherapy, which blends a number of evidence-based therapies, including the 12 step approach to addiction treatment, person-centred therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, family therapy, art therapy, recovery workshops, mindfulness, and more. We work mainly in group sessions, and every client also has a one-to-one counselling session each week with their focal counsellor.

We offer both alcohol and drug addiction treatment, as well as a detox and rehab programme to give our clients the tools, knowledge, and skills they need to find a life beyond addiction. We offer all our clients three months of free aftercare following completion of their treatment programme with us, and we are here to support every step of the way.

Help Me Stop graduation chips with 'One Day at a Time' message

If you or a loved one would like to find out more about addiction treatment, please get in touch with a member of the team and we will be happy to help. Whether it is a new journey into recovery or relapse you’re dealing with, our team will listen, support, and help you stop. Call us on 0208 191 9191, or you can email the team on

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