Why Is Relapse More Common During the Holiday Season?

A variety of triggers and more opportunities to drink can make you more vulnerable to relapse during the holidays.

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, not just for people in recovery. And with stress being one of the main factors that increases the risk of relapse, it’s easy to see why relapse might be more common during the holidays.1 People who are newly sober are even more vulnerable to the stress this time of year.

If you’re in recovery, you aren’t guaranteed to relapse just because it’s the holiday season. However, it’s best to be cautious of the risks, remain aware of your triggers, and seek out extra help if you know this time of year might be difficult for you.

Related post: Spending the Holidays at a Sober Living Home

Americans drink twice as much during the holiday season

A recent study of 2,000 Americans revealed that the average U.S. adult drinks about four alcoholic beverages in one week. But during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year, the average jumps to eight drinks per week, which is double the norm! The survey also found that the amount of alcohol Americans consume correlates with how frequently they go out. And not surprisingly, during the holiday season, U.S. adults attend at least three times more social functions and parties.2

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are generally more car crash fatalities during holiday periods than during non-holiday periods due to increased travel time, more alcohol use, and excessive speeding.3 And during the holidays, 40% of highway deaths are alcohol related.4 Unfortunately, this data is clear evidence that the holidays provoke excessive alcohol consumption and relapse.

Other factors that increase the risk of relapse during the holidays

Although people tend to drink more during the holidays because they’re more social, there are also several other factors that influence alcohol and drug use, and increase the likelihood that someone in recovery may relapse.

  • Frequent travel: People tend to travel more during the holidays, whether it’s to go on vacation or to visit family members who live in different states or countries. Traveling can be a great way to relax and have fun, but during the holidays, airports and train stations are often packed with people, tickets are more expensive, and it can be a hassle to get where you need to go. The added stress of frequent travel and the disruption to normal daily routines can make it difficult for people in recovery to sustain their sobriety, especially if they miss work, recovery meetings, and meetings with sponsors.
  • Family issues: Of course, the holidays are also an ideal time to spend with close family and friends. However, some people in recovery may have to face toxic family members who are unsupportive of their recovery or who are a constant source of anxiety and stress. Complex family issues can make get togethers less enjoyable and family events may be especially dangerous when certain holiday traditions revolve around alcohol.
  • More events and parties: During the holidays, people are more likely to attend office Christmas parties, neighborhood events, and festive gatherings hosted by friends and family members. All the extra socializing can be draining and exhausting for some people, not to mention, many of these social activities may involve alcohol. For people who are newly sober, social events with alcohol can be especially triggering and may be difficult to attend without having much real-world sober experience under their belts. 
  • Unrealistic expectations: It’s easy to feel like you have to have everything all together for the holidays. People often experience pressure from family members or friends to host the perfect dinner party, or to give the best gifts, or to attend every event they’re invited to. In truth, these expectations are simply unrealistic and no one can be expected to be perfect, especially during the holiday season. Keeping things in perspective when you’re newly sober or struggling with temptation and triggers can be very difficult.

Are you at risk of relapsing this holiday season?

Maybe you are facing many of the holiday stressors listed above. If so, it’s important to safeguard your sobriety by seeking out extra support during the holiday season. You should also work with a counselor, sponsor, or therapist to identify your strongest triggers and find healthy ways to manage them. For example, some of the best ways to stay accountable to your recovery and prevent relapse include:

  • Going to regular recovery meetings
  • Maintaining your normal schedule (as much as possible)
  • Opting out of parties with alcohol and other substances and attending sober events instead
  • Practicing proper self-care during the holidays
  • Avoiding stressors whenever possible

If you find that you are fantasizing about drinking alcohol or using drugs, reminiscing about previous holidays you spent drunk or high, rationalizing having just one drink, or purposely avoiding your sponsor, peer support group meetings, or therapist, chances are, you’re at high risk of relapsing. These are all signs that you need additional support to stay sober.

Related post: 11 Common Recovery Challenges During the Holidays

Getting help after a holiday relapse

During the holidays, it’s important that you’re in a safe, sober, and supportive space that encourages you to maintain the sober life you’ve established for yourself. It’s all too easy to fall off the wagon during the holidays, but a sober living program can help you stay on track and prioritize your recovery despite the temptations of the season.

At Eudaimonia Recovery Homes, we can help you avoid relapse during the holidays or get back on track after a recent slip. Our experienced and compassionate staff members have been in your shoes and they know the hard work that goes into getting sober and staying that way. Each of our sober homes in Austin, Houston, and Colorado Springs is run by a house manager who ensures the space remains a sober and safe space for men, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals to focus on their recovery.

If you’re looking for extra support or help getting back on track this holiday season, sober living Austin Texas might be just what you need. Give us a call today at (512) 580-3131 or contact us online to get started.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3788822/ 
  2. https://nypost.com/2018/12/04/people-drink-twice-as-much-alcohol-over-the-holidays/ 
  3. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812823 
  4. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/truth-about-holiday-spirits 

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