Reach Out and Develop a Sustainable Trigger Plan During the Holiday Season and Beyond


For many reasons, the holiday season raises an assortment of red flags around our circle of family and friends, including the resentment and loneliness that may trigger a relapse event. Cultivating safe, supportive peer relationships with those who understand our emotional issues is critical for managing potential triggers. 

Understanding Triggers

Intense social, environmental, or emotional reactions can be reminders of prior drug or alcohol misuse. The urge to act on the stimuli may prompt a return or relapse to the previous behavior. In addition to the substance itself, triggers may be initiated by locations, people, even the reliving of past events. Anger and other emotions—such as feelings of alienation, loneliness, and difficulty connecting with loved ones—can often follow, along with unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

Associating the stressors and challenges of daily living with substance misuse, the brain eventually associates this coping mechanism with an intense driving need whenever it is exposed to a trigger cue.

With its end-of-year celebrations, the holidays make being confronted by people, places, and substances a particular challenge.

Managing Expectations

While you cannot control others’ behavior or opinions, you do have control over your desired outcomes. Beginning now, think about how you would like to spend the holidays. Who or what do you want around you? If you know your family or friends will celebrate in the presence of alcohol, speak with your support group or counselor on ways you might explain how you would prefer to sit out of celebrations this year or meet for somber meals instead.

Fear of offending someone should be way down your list of concerns. Genuine friends and understanding family members will appreciate your attempt to remain clear of environmental triggers that may prompt a relapse. They may even come up with an alternative way to gather over the holidays. 

Reach Out

Reaching out for professional and peer support is critical during this time. Professional help can give you constructive feedback and suggestions on navigating social situations during the holiday season. It may even offer an opportunity to role-play with potential triggers in mind.

Your support group or support peers are all made up of individuals going through the same situation as you. Some may offer suggestions or even describe how they dealt with a particular trigger. Just listening to how somebody else coped in a situation can be an invaluable learning tool.


Developing peer relationships with people who shift away from a life centered around the consumption of drugs or alcohol provides you with a path of accountability for your choices in recovery. In relationships, look for people who: 

  • Support you during cravings
  • Share their own recovery experiences
  • Help others on their path to recovery

Remember, recovery never takes a day off. Healing happens 365 days of the year. That includes birthdays, family celebrations, and cultural holidays. Having a dependable network that you can count on during challenging times of the year will help you with accountability for your recovery choices.

Internal triggers inspire thoughts and emotions previously connected to substance abuse, while external triggers, associated with people, places, memories, and activities conjure feelings and cravings of substance abuse. During the holiday season, while friends and family socialize, the temptation to fall back into old behaviors can create daily triggers leading to frustration, anger, and loneliness. Cultivating new, positive relationships to include professional and peer support may prevent slipping back into the company of harmful friends and destructive emotions. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains’ inspiring landscape, the Detox Center of Colorado offers a solution-based transitional residence program aimed at accountability and recovery. No matter how far you’ve gone on your journey to substance abuse or mental health recovery, we look forward to exploring the range of supportive treatment and aftercare options available to you. Call the Detox Center of Colorado at (303) 952-5035. It may be the best thing you do for yourself today. 


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