Seven tips to stay sober, prevent relapse during the holidays

December 20, 2022 

Seven tips to stay sober, prevent relapse during the holidays

Chippewa Falls, Wis. – Holiday cheer may not be what everyone feels during the Christmas and New Year celebrations; for those struggling with alcohol or drug use it can be a difficult time filled with loneliness, self-doubt and depression.

Dave Peterson, an alcohol and drug abuse registered nurse and counselor at L.E. Phillips-Libertas Treatment Center, a service of HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital, says it’s imperative for those in recovery to have a sense of belonging, especially during the holidays.

“Feeling needed and accepted will help those with substance use disorders keep moving in a positive direction,” says Peterson.

He recommends those in recovery attend extra 12 step meetings during the holiday season, and seek out local programs that provide dinners, dances, game nights and more to make the season less overwhelming.

L.E. Phillips-Libertas Treatment Center in Chippewa Falls is a member of the Hazelden Betty Ford Patient Care Network. Together, the organizations are providing tips to help you or a loved one avoid a relapse or uncomfortable situation at holiday gatherings.

  1. Plan ahead
  • Practice politely declining an alcoholic drink.
  • Limit your time if the situation becomes stressful.
  • Schedule a time to talk with your sponsor before or after the party.
  • Have an exit plan if you need to leave early. This could mean finding your own transportation to the event so you can leave when you want.
  1. Be mindful
  • Bring your own non-alcoholic drink or grab something as soon as you get to the gathering  to deter others from offering you drinks.
  • Be ready with a short answer you feel comfortable sharing if someone asks about your sobriety or why you are not having an alcoholic drink.
  1. Know your triggers
  • If you know a certain person will ask questions or talk about your sobriety more than you are comfortable with, avoid them.
  • Remember, attending an event is enough. You don’t have to stay long or partake in drinking to please the crowd.
  • Say no. If it’s unrealistic to avoid an uncomfortable situation, or your gut tells you it’s not a good event to attend, it’s okay to decline the invitation. Staying sober and protecting your recovery must come first.
  1. Be of service
  • Stay busy during the holidays by volunteering, welcoming a new member of your support group, spending time with an elderly loved one – these tasks will keep your focus off any thoughts of relapse.
  • If you attend a social gathering, offer to help in the kitchen, set the table or another task to keep your mind and body busy.
  1. Remember, the holidays do not need to be perfect or just like last year
  • Rarely do holiday events look like the scene from a movie. Families grow and change, so don’t let your expectations be your downfall.
  • Talk with a sober friend or sponsor about the emotions and expectations you have surrounding the holidays. Often, talking through your feelings and concerns will help relieve anxiety.
  • Embrace new traditions and keep in mind that recovery is a one-day-at-a-time endeavor, no matter the season.
  1. Practice self-care
  • The better you feel physically and mentally, the more enjoyable the holiday season will feel. Eat well, exercise and take time to reflect on thankfulness for your sobriety, whether it’s a day or a decade.
  • Find quiet time each day for relaxation and to give your mind a break during the busy holiday season.
  1. Forgive yourself
  • If you didn’t know the punch contained alcohol, and you accidentally had a sip, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean you’ve relapsed or need to start sobriety at day one. Call your sponsor in a timely manner and talk through the situation.
  • If recovery hasn’t been successful in the past, don’t give up. The holidays can be a perfect time to recommit to yourself and your addiction treatment.

Peterson says wherever you celebrate the holidays, recovery support groups are available; mobile apps can make it easy to find one near you.

If you need support for alcohol or drug misuse, please call the L.E. Phillips-Libertas Treatment Center at (715) 723-5585. You can also find emergency support by calling the crisis hotline at 2-1-1 which will connect you with local resources and services.


About HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital
HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1885, it has served the people of the Chippewa Falls area with health care that is high tech and high touch. Known locally for the quality of the care it provides patients, the hospital has been recognized nationally for its outstanding patient satisfaction levels. 

About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality, Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our physician practices and 15 local hospitals in two states - Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan, and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries,  and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit

Media Contact

Karen Kraus

Communications Department HSHS Wisconsin