High-risk situations are those that can quickly lead to lapse. Gatherings during the holidays are potential high-risk situations, such as the party where everyone’s drinking, a family event that has a high likelihood of erupting into an argument or a situation where you encounter people you used to use with. Here are some tips for navigating high-risk events during the holidays.

Know when to say no

Before accepting an invitation to a gathering that could possibly lead to a lapse, ask yourself these important questions:

  • Do I really need to go?
  • Am I ready to cope with this type of environment?
  • Will anyone be there who might try to interfere with my recovery?

If you feel the event is too risky, don’t be afraid to decline the invitation, even if it’s a family gathering. You know best what you need and don’t need during the holidays, and preserving your sobriety should be your number-one priority this year. If you choose to accept the invitation, the following tips will help you get through it with your sobriety intact.

Walk yourself through the situation. Think about the specific triggers at the event that could lead you closer to a lapse, such as encountering a friend who will try to get you to have “just one” drink or a family member who knows how to push your buttons. Imagine how you will handle each situation.

Bring someone along for support

If you can, bring a sober, supportive friend or family member to the event. Having someone there who supports your recovery will make it much easier to resist using, and it can help you stay on an even emotional keel.

Define and enforce your boundaries

Boundaries establish the kind of treatment from others that you deem acceptable. Boundaries are different for each situation.1 Define your boundaries before you go, and enforce them while you’re there. For example, if a family member tries to engage you in an argument, don’t allow it. Say, “I’m not going to discuss this right now,” and walk away. Enforce your boundaries without guilt. It’s important to be okay with doing what you need to do to stay sober.

Get support

If you can, attend a meeting right before you go to the event. Getting some support, tips and encouragement in advance can go a long way toward helping you cope with the situation. Have your sponsor or a supportive friend or family member on speed dial, and if you feel like your sobriety is at risk, make the call.

Have an out

Have a plan in place for making a quick exit if necessary. Make excuses if you must, or simply leave, if you can. If you don’t have transportation, ask someone ahead of time if they can give you a ride if it comes to that. Don’t worry about appearing rude or anti-social. You have to do what’s best for your sobriety.

This is part three of five in the series Staying Sober Over the Holidays. Next, read Staying Sober Over the Holidays, Part 4: Cope With Cravings.


  1. http://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/articles/boundaries-in-addiction-recovery