Stop Escaping the Holidays with Alcohol or Drugs

The holidays can bring constant reminders of our relationships with our family and friends. Family gatherings can include unsolicited comments, unwanted attention and increased scrutiny. Family members carelessly mention what they see wrong with us, not thinking how their words affect our self-esteem or mental health. Internalizing the comments that wound us leads us to seek comfort in alcohol or drugs, making matters worse.

While our intention to embrace sobriety is well-meaning, ceasing the use of alcohol or substances is not like flipping a switch. It requires us to address the nature of our addiction and our mental and spiritual well-being. Before we start any resolution, we must consider what is motivating us to make the change.

Depression during the Holidays

When the holiday season starts, the increase in activities, responsibilities and social engagements can intensify depression and anxiety. The pressure to please friends and family overshadows the joy of giving. Shopping in time for gifts to arrive by the holiday drains emotional energy. Traveling to family gatherings heightens existing tensions or emotional stress. Conversely, not seeing friends or family during the holidays can also cause depression. 

Whether during the holidays or at another point in the previous year, losing a loved one can make the holidays especially tricky. Traditions such as gatherings, decorating or any other activity are reminders of our loss. Sometimes that’s when the urge to drink alcohol or use drugs occurs in order to suppress sad feelings. If you feel yourself sinking, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

Family Issues during the Holidays

Holiday gatherings push family tensions to the forefront. Issues such as death, abuse, addiction, divorce, separation or strained relationships can intensify the need to use substances. We feel an expectation to act or feel a certain way when we are with our family. The pressure to enjoy everyone’s company, be happy or provide emotional support can be overwhelming, leading some of us to cope with drugs or alcohol.

COVID-19 during the Holidays

The need for social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis has increased the sense of isolation for many. According to the Centers for Disease Control, how we react to the stress of COVID-19 quarantine restrictions depends on pre-existing conditions like depression and alcohol or substance use disorder. Depression can increase cravings for alcohol or substances. 

Holiday stress associated with family or social gatherings occurs if seasonal traditions are put on hold due to the pandemic. COVID-19 restrictions regarding gatherings, travel and self-isolation limit or cancel traditional festivities. If maintaining tradition, seeing family and celebrating with loved ones is important to you, these modern constraints can create feelings of loss and loneliness.

If isolation causes us to consider reverting to unhealthy habits, it is important to reach out to connect with a support system before reaching for alcohol or substances. Planning ahead helps ensure we will have someone to talk to and access to a therapist if needed.

Seek Help

Depression, family gatherings, social engagements and pressure to have the best holiday present or party can challenge our ability to cope with holiday stress. Don’t fall back to using drugs or alcohol as a way to escape these tough times. Reaching for a helping hand is the best way to keep healthy during the holidays.


The holidays are challenging to navigate. If you are ready to accept that you can live without alcohol or drugs, and are done turning to these things to cope, contact us today. Cliffside Malibu provides a comprehensive program focused on supporting you overcoming a substance use disorder. For more information, call (855) 403-5641.