Navigating the Holidays: A Guide for Families Supporting Loved Ones in Addiction Recovery

Celebrating the holidays can be difficult not only for those in addiction recovery but also for their loved ones. While the holidays often signify happiness and togetherness, for some they can represent isolation, depression, old family hurts, and a focus on using alcohol to celebrate. It is important to find the right balance of respecting our loved one’s sobriety but still keeping happy traditions alive.  What is most important is to support your loved one and their choices. Here are some ideas.

Reduce holiday stress.

The holidays can be stressful for everyone, those in recovery and those who are not. For loved ones in recovery, this stress can be overwhelming and triggering. Visiting home for the holidays can bring back old memories and people who contributed to the addiction, which can cause undue stress. Loved ones should be able to pull their “get away” card whenever necessary so they don’t feel flooded in a problematic situation. Letting them know that there is always an out is essential.

Prepare family.

We have all heard about the stereotypical holiday table, with an older family member asking when a younger one will get married or have kids. The anxiety of someone in recovery having to answer questions about their journey may be difficult. Not everyone knows how to interact with someone in recovery, so giving some direction can help. Remind the family of what they should or should not say. An example is to avoid offering “one glass of wine” to someone in recovery, as that could trigger a relapse.

Make it sober.

Staying sober for the holidays can be beneficial in many ways – more money in your pocket that you aren’t spending on alcohol, fewer personal regrets the morning after, and the ability to cherish the moments fully. Despite the benefits, this may still be difficult for your loved one. Options for your loved one in recovery include attending festivities with their sponsor or a sober friend, making sure there is always an option for them to leave early, or making the whole event alcohol-free.

Support, support, and support.

It is your responsibility to support and stand by your loved one as they navigate this holiday season. If you sense that your loved one is feeling down, encourage them to speak to a sponsor, mentor, or other friend from their treatment program. How about offering to attend a meeting with them? Your loved one needs to know that you have their back.

Navigating the holiday season with a loved one in addiction recovery might not be what you expected to do this year. Still, it is essential to be there and be an encouraging and comforting presence. The holidays are still about sipping hot chocolate, relaxing by the fire, and eating delicious food. When you focus on the togetherness of the holidays, you will be able to enjoy the cherished moments even more. 

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