How Social Media Can Be A Dangerous Trigger This Holiday Season and How To Prevent Relapse

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For many people, the holiday season brings feelings of anticipation, joy, and excitement and fond memories of years past. However, for those in recovery, this time of year can bring overwhelming feelings of dread, anxiety, and loneliness fueled by disturbing memories of alcohol or drug-fueled parties and family gatherings. And with alcohol flowing at most work events and holiday parties, this is the most difficult time for those trying to stay sober. Most rehab facilities teach those in recovery different ways to tackle this time of year, whether it be through attending as many 12-Step meetings as they can, finding support among sponsors, family, and friends, and to avoid as many tempting situations as possible that can derail his or her recovery. One aspect of the season that many people in sobriety may overlook is how social media can play a major trigger during their recovery. Here are different ways social media can pose a dangerous threat to sobriety and tips to help you reduce or avoid these triggers to stay on track with your recovery during the holidays.

Facebook Memories:

You are scrolling through your Facebook feed on New Year’s Eve when suddenly you are faced with a “Memory” or “On This Day” post carefully crafted in a collage complete with pictures and music. However, these moments may show images of you drinking with family or friends at a New Year’s Eve party, old friends you used to get high with, or other photos of holiday memories that can trigger feelings of sadness and urges to use again. These images may also spur emotions of “romanticizing” the old days of drinking or using drugs causing those in sobriety to want to reach out to those “friends” that could pose a risk to their recovery. You can avoid this issue on Facebook by disabling the app. But if you still want to use it, you can reduce these posts by:

  • Going to
  • Tap on “Notifications” in the top right.
  • Select “None” to turn off all notifications or “Highlights” to see less.

Please note that you may still see some memories in your Newsfeed as you aren’t able to turn off all Facebook memories. But you can control what you see in Memories by hiding people or dates you don’t want to be reminded of, especially memories that can pose a threat to your sobriety. 

Social media ads

Strategic ad placement in social media campaigns can be highly triggering for someone in recovery, especially during the holidays. This is a time of year where we want to reach out to others we miss and cherish, and social media is a free and easy way to stay connected. However, the bombardment of sponsored ads within Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook can prove to be overwhelming and a major trigger in recovery. Before you entered treatment, your online searches and activity may have included buying drug paraphernalia or searching for local liquor stores. After rehab, you may scroll through the same social media feeds only to find sponsored ads for alcoholic beverages or local cannabis stores in your area. These ads can cause anxiety and stress, even subliminally, causing urges to use and potentially relapse. If you feel you’d like to still keep social media, or need it for school or work, but are concerned with it’s targeted ads, try these three methods to help reduce the number of ads received on a given day:

  1. Snapchat and Instagram: Instagram ads are posts that are marked “sponsored,” and can be hidden by tapping the menu on the top right corner. When it asks why you don’t want to see it, report the ad as “Inappropriate” to get rid of it completely. For Snapchat, open the app, swipe down to open the Profile screen. Click on the “Settings” icon. Tap “Manage Preferences,” and then “Additional Services.” Scroll down and tap on “Ad Preferences.” Click on the slider next to “Snap Audience Match” and select disable.
  2. Use Ad-Blocking Tools: ad-blocking helps preserve anonymity online. Depending on your web browser, such as Chrome, you can download the Adblock Plus extension to reduce or stop ads generated by Google, YouTube, and Facebook. Or install Ad-Lock, a software that can stop ads on any apps you use that connect to the Internet.
  3. Facebook: Though you can’t stop Facebook ads completely, you can opt-out of ads based on browsing habits. Log on to your account and click on “Settings” at the upper right-hand corner of your homepage. Scroll down to the section in Settings marked “Ads” where you’ll find ad preferences. Change the settings to “Not Allowed.” The section marked “Ads that include your social actions” can be changed from being seen by “Only Friends” to “No One.” 

Quitting apps – period

During the holidays, you work hard at avoiding any temptations to use drugs or alcohol, but large amounts of social media activity can prove to derail your sobriety. Apps like Snapchat can be dangerous to those with an addiction, especially to illicit drugs. According to a recent study cited in a BBC News article, “social media apps are increasingly likely to be used by young people to buy illegal drugs as it’s easy to do and they can watch dealers handle their stash on video stories. The study found that the convenience of organizing a transaction was the most commonly reported advantage, with 79% giving this as a reason for using apps.”

Quitting apps completely is the best way to avoid all of these potential triggers, especially during the holiday season when you are at your most vulnerable. However, unless you avoid going on-line all-together, you won’t be able to avoid these triggering pop-up ads or potential urges to use the internet to purchase drugs or alcohol. This is why rehab and post-rehab programs are crucial to your sobriety. At Silver Lining Recovery, our customized treatment programs offer therapy sessions, outpatient treatment and intensive outpatient treatment, and many post-rehab programs that can help you overcome addiction, provide the tools necessary to function in the real world and manage your sobriety. If you or someone you love is ready to break free of the bondage of addiction, contact Silver Lining Recovery today at 1-833-8GROWTH.