Navigating the Festive Season in Recovery

Alcohol consumption in the UK raises by 41% in December, making the festive season an extremely challenging time for many in addiction recovery. Excessive alcohol consumption is unfortunately embedded in UK culture, and all too often, especially during the festive season, many feel pressured to drink. This is not an ideal situation for those vulnerable to relapse. 

Therefore, what many consider a ‘regular’ Christmas may be triggering for those already in recovery, or for those struggling with addiction this period may escalate their behaviour or veil it under a socially accepted veil of excess, indulgence, and festivity. This problem of alcohol dependence is often denied by both the person who is addicted and also their loved ones, especially at  

Here at New Leaf Recovery, we understand the struggle that many go through at this time of year. It can be incredibly difficult to fit back into your family system or routine at this time of year or to accept that certain loved ones may be too unsafe to be around when sustaining your recovery through the festive period. That’s why we’ve put together this guide, full of helpful tips to help you navigate the festive season in recovery. 

Christmas Festive Season in Recovery

Setting Boundaries and Sticking to Them

Your boundaries are the limits you set in life and your relationships to protect yourself and those around you. Setting boundaries is a vital part of addiction recovery, as you begin to prioritise your commitment to recovery over accepting potentially harmful behaviour from your loved ones.  

We can’t force other people to change, or control situational outcomes, but we can change how we respond, and put in place steps to help us navigate certain tricky situations. You can choose to maintain a distance from harmful behaviours and if challenged explain that boundary, and the real consequences if it is crossed, to help others respect your choice.  


Setting boundaries will help allow you to: 

  • Protect your emotional and physical space. 
  • Clarify what is or isn’t acceptable. 
  • Ensure you maintain a clear sense of your own needs, feelings, and identity. 
  • Stop being taken advantage of. 


Remember, we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, there is no shame in setting rigid boundaries to protect yourself. Other boundaries you have may be more flexible depending on the situation or individual, this is fine too, but for the best effect make sure they are clearly communicated and defined. 

Tips for Surviving Christmas and the New Year Without Relapse

Getting advice and support, and an arsenal of guidance at the ready can make all the difference to helping you and your family not only survive this Christmas but thrive and have fun while staying sober. The following tips may be used and combined as necessary to help you build your tailored relapse prevention plan, which can act as an insurance policy for your continued sobriety this festive season. 

  • Plan activities to help keep you busy, like exercise, walking, relaxation, meditation, or alcohol-free festive activities – like crafts. 
  • Plan and schedule, take control of your day. Structure and routine can be difficult to maintain at this time of year but is vital. 
  • Take each day as it comes. Christmas is just another day, don’t give a day more power than that. This may not feel true at the moment, but with careful planning and resilience you can make it through, even in early recovery. 
  • Prepare in advance to reduce stress and have the things you need ready to avoid a panicked, last-minute trip to the shops, especially where they may be aggressively advertising alcohol. 
  • Stay connected. Identify your support system - addiction is an illness of isolation. Spend time with those that understand and respect your needs. 
  • Practice gratitude and mindfulness – what do you have to be grateful for? 
  • Take breaks from stressful situations if you need to and find somewhere safe to go for some time out.  
  • Remember, a thought is just a thought, you don’t have to act on it. Acknowledge it, and let it go. 
  • Don’t feel tempted to unnecessarily test yourself, avoid places where you cannot avoid alcohol. Especially without support. 
  • If you feel tempted, play the scenario through to the end. What will happen if you relapse, in the short and long term, where would you be, what would you lose, and how would you feel? 
  • Consider spending some time serving others, acts of kindness can go a long way to helping you feel better.  
  • Communicate your needs. Set boundaries, talk to someone, and call someone for help if you need it. 

A Sober Christmas Afterall

A sober Christmas is possible, whether you’re in recovery or looking to reduce your alcohol consumption more generally. It can be a triggering time, spiritually, emotionally, and physically, which can be impacted by your surroundings. However, with careful planning and utilising the resources or support around you, you can get through and enjoy this festive season, without relapse. For further support or help with managing your addiction, you may consider entering rehab. If this is the case for you, contact New Leaf Recovery today, we’re happy to help.