Follow these 14 Steps to Avoid Relapse

During the holidays and after the beginning of the new year, therapists often see an uptick in people who are stressed out and feeling depressed.   If this sounds like you, then you may also be at higher risk of relapse whether it be due to alcohol, drugs, sex and pornography, eating, spending or gambling.   Here are 15 suggestions that may help you avoid relapse and stay physically and mentally healthy this holiday season:

  1. Avoid certain unhealthy or triggering people, places and things. Part of relapse prevention is to learn to identify the what, who, and why of addiction, and then to avoid them.  This includes the familiar traps associated with a return or increase in use. Your therapist can help you recognize that relapse is a process of reverting to a learned behavior can make all the difference in terms of being in the driver’s seat over the problem behavior.
  2. Develop a strategy. Related to #1 above, it is crucial to know thyself and to pattern a strategy to NOT relapse. To NOT plan to stay abstinent is to plan to lose control or to relapse.
  3. Increase your support by making an appointment with your therapist or going to additional AA or group therapy meetings.
  4. Attend a Michigan Psychodrama Center workshop. The MPC offers numerous groups and workshops aimed at assisting those with addictive struggles.
  5. Address the emotional triggers that fuel out of control behavior. Many times, childhood pain surfaces during the holidays. Family get-togethers challenge most of us, but when there has been alcoholism, drug use, or other dysfunction in one’s family environment, the feelings when seeing family members or reliving memories at this time of year can be overwhelming. Talk to a professional or other “safe” person about these feelings. Otherwise, you may find yourself numbing the pain with substances or other addictions.
  6. Eat well, exercise, do yoga or mediate. All of these activities boost the body’s natural endorphins and sense of well-being and calm. It is Michigan, meaning there is little sun during the winter, so you may want to check your vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D can signal fatigue and bring on poor eating and sleeping habits.
  7. Manage your expectations. Avoid Facebook and comparing yourself to others. Most people exaggerate their successes and avoid posting their difficulties. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you are less worthy than others.
  8. Volunteer. Assisting others who are in need, worshiping or serving at a spiritual institution or giving of yourself in other ways boosts the mood and shifts the focus from your own feelings.
  9. Manage your thoughts. Read about cognitive therapy and learn how to spot cognitive distortions and reframe them. Dr. Corby is a certified cognitive therapist and can provide guidance.
  10. Maintain good sleeping habits and sleep hygiene. Sleep deprivation can lower your resistance to relapse and can also make you feel depressed. Talk to your therapist to determine if your sleep issues are psychological, and consider having a sleep study done to rule out things like apnea.
  11. Practice good self-care. Prioritize your schedule, balance it, don’t overdo it or overpromise to others. Perfectionism is the enemy to self-love.
  12. Don’t expect that you will feel festive just because it is the holidays. Allow yourself to be authentic and cry, write feelings in a journal, feel your frustration over the past and present, and feel down, so you can clear those feelings away for moments of joy that might pop up.
  13. Remember that this season is temporary. Staying centered, real and supported can help you ride out the urges and vulnerability to relapse and arrive on the other side of the season stronger than ever.


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