Skip Navigation

How to cope with Christmas when you are in recovery from addiction

Emma Kavanagh is head of clinical services at the Rutland Centre. Here she offers some advice for people in recovery, or working towards sobriety, over the festive season.

– This time of year can be very challenging for people in recovery from both process and substance addictions. Celebrations centred on alcohol and Christmas traditions such as going to the races on St Stephen’s Day can be very problematic and triggering for people in recovery from alcohol addiction, from drug addiction and from gambling addiction.

– Routine is so important in recovery. However, it can go out the window for all of us over the holidays; people are up late and sleeping in. Keep a structure and routine: good sleep practices, making sure that you eat well, getting your daily exercise. All those things that affect us physiologically are also going to affect us emotionally and psychologically. The more we can keep them in place, the better resourced we’ll be to deal with other challenges that come our way and mitigate any threats to our recovery.

– Stay connected with your recovery community. In the festive period we get very caught up with family and friends. That’s hugely important, but other things can fall by the wayside. Fellowship meetings, supports, are the cornerstone of a good solid recovery and they’re equally if not more important at this time of year.

– Acknowledge how you feel. Holidays are not necessarily a great time for everyone. Many people struggle, particularly people in early recovery. It’s okay to acknowledge that it’s difficult. People feel sometimes they need to put on a brave face and not dampen the Christmas spirit by drawing attention to their struggles. However, it’s really important that people are able to do that. It’s important for their recovery, and it’s important for mental health in general, that people can make space for a variety of different feelings. Yes, Christmas can be enjoyable, but it can also be stressful and difficult.

– Remember that triggers aren’t always around the substance. So if I’m a cocaine addict, a trigger for me isn’t always going to be seeing cocaine, a trigger might be feeling isolated, I might use off of the feeling of isolation. For pornography, the trigger might not be seeing sexually explicit images, it might be feeling let down or disregarded. We can have a lot of emotional triggers, not just ones directly related to the substance or behaviour.


Louise Ní Chríodáin, Irish Times, 16th December 2021

Posted by on 12/16 at 12:17 PM in
Share this:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • LinkedIn
  • E-mail
(0) Comments






Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Enter this word:


The HSE and Union of Students in Ireland (USI) ask students to think about drug safety measures when using club drugs
Harm reduction messages from the #SaferStudentNights campaign.
Poll Poll

Have you ever been impacted negatively by someone else's drug taking?