Holiday season is upon us and everyone knows about the Twelve Days of Christmas. In the spirit of this, I’d like to share with you Thirteen Things to Check Out to Stay Strong in Recovery.

Long before anyone takes a drink or uses a drug, the signs of relapse rear their head and are often overlooked. We bat a blind eye to that sneaky bandit called relapse. If you’re in recovery, the holiday season makes it hard not to be tempted by all the people and places, gifts and parties, sights and sounds, smells and tastes. If you experience any off these 13 signs of relapse, get yourself help fast, go to a support group, reach out to your sponsor, work a fourth step and make sure you are not alone.

  1. Ego. Oftentimes our ego – that little voice in our head that says “I’m better than this” runs the show. When we think we are bigger, better, faster than everyone else and don’t need anyone, we are headed for a disaster. In 12-Step, we often call this “will run riot.” If your ego is whispering in your ear that you’re the best – the better thing to do is to check it at the door, before that boozy eggnog gets the best of you.
  2. No more 12-Step meetings. If you have stopped your regular meeting routine, spouting a thousand excuses to bail, reevaluate your steps. They are there to keep you on the straight and narrow. Set your alarm, wake up early and get yourself to that 5:30 a.m. meeting. You’ll be glad you put in the work.
  3. Isolation. Holing up in your room, staying under the covers and being your own best friend gets you stuck in your head. When this happens, the negative scripts in your head tell you the wrong things and may open a path to relapse. Be sure to have a pact with a buddy that allows for you to be thrown out of bed and back on the road.
  4. Stop taking your medicine. Oftentimes folks that experience depression decide they no longer need their meds. “I can do this myself!” However, if you start rapid firing – ordering lots of things online, shopping sprees, talking super-fast and claiming to know everything, that’s a sure-fire sign you need to ask yourself: Am I filling an empty hole?
  5. Hanging out in dangerous places. Going to the local bar or holiday party that you know will be full of drugs and alcohol is tempting fate. Have an exit plan in place.
  6. Telling everyone they have a problem. When we take inventory of other’s lives, we travel down resentment road and hang a left at poor-little-me lane.
  7. Not taking care of yourself. You smell like a week-old hamper. Ew! Letting self-care slip demonstrates you’re not exercising self-love. Even though you put on a smile, your breath reeks and your holiday best wish turn into a mess. If this is the case, both you and your clothes need a fresh clean.
  8. Being a narcissist. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fakest of them all? The truth is it’s you! Only you and perfection will do, you might think. Check yourself and summon empathy to stay in recovery. 
  9. Throw gratitude out the window. All of a sudden you stopped doing your morning ritual, which included a grateful list. When we lose sight of gratitude, we turn to the negative and suddenly our bright sunshine becomes a gloomy storm. There’s always something to be thankful for – focus on that.
  10. Stop being of service. When we stop lending a helping hand, we let ourselves fall into the trap of being a narcissist (see number 8). Remember to say thank you to the grocery clerk and Starbucks barista, help your neighbor unload groceries, hold the door for the mom with a stroller and smile at strangers on the street.
  11. Forgetfulness. As if overnight you forget what’s important and make mountains out of molehills. You forget that you are alive today and where you have been and how you got here. Our journey is one of the most valuable tools in showing us we mean something. When all else fails and you forget to write down a gratitude list, recall where you were five years ago in comparison to where you are today, and you’ll remember our journeys make us stronger.
  12. Ready to pull a punch. If you’re on edge, ready to pick a fight from the slightest provocation, maybe it’s time to step away and take a breather. You don’t have to take everything personally. Most of the time, people are consumed with their own lives and haven’t even considered their words and deeds as a target for your personal life. Let everyone else be nuts so you don’t have to be.
  13. Posting a tweet storm. If you’re relying on Tinder for dates and posting provocative pictures on Instagram like crazy, you may be feeling insecure. Delete the apps and take a break. Life is much better when we look out the window and notice the trees and passing clouds. It will help you center yourself and keep your eyes on recovery.

So if you are doing any of these things, ask yourself if you are filling an empty hole or rising to your best possible self. Help and a meeting are always just a few steps away.

To learn more about Louise Stanger and her interventions and other resources, visit her website.


  • Louise Stanger Ed.D, LCSW, CDWF, CIP

    Writer, Speaker, Clinician, Interventionist

    Dr. Louise Stanger founded All About Interventions because she is passionate about helping families whose loved ones experience substance abuse, mental health, process addictions and chronic pain. She is committed to showing up for her clients and facilitating lasting change so families are free from sleepless, worrisome nights. Additionally, she speaks about these topics all around the country, trains staff at many treatment centers, and develops original family programs. In 2018, Louise became the recipient of the Peggy Albrecht Friendly House Excellence in Service Award. She most recently received the Interventionist of the Year Award from DB Resources in London and McLean Hospital - an affiliate of Harvard University, in 2019. To learn more, watch this video: and visit her website at