For people who have addictions, the holidays can be painful and difficult; and how can family support addiction recovery during this time? These tips can help.
It’s not just that alcohol features prominently in many holiday celebrations, though that’s certainly a part of it. But holidays also come with many other potential triggers that can make it more difficult for a person suffering from addiction to maintain their sobriety.
- For some, money stress can potentially trigger a relapse.
- For others, it’s tension within the family.
Feelings of guilt and shame can be especially strong during the holiday season, especially if the person’s addiction has disrupted the holidays in previous years. Some people may have negative reactions to the season itself – the reduced daylight hours and weather that forces everyone indoors can create feelings of depression for some people.
How Family Can Support Addiction Recovery During Holidays
Whatever an individual’s reason, holidays can be a struggle. And while it’s the responsibility of the person with the addiction to prevent a relapse, family support of addiction recovery can make a big difference to the person with the addiction.
If you’re concerned about the well-being of a loved one who suffers from addiction this holiday season, check out some ways family can support addiction recovery.
1. Shift the Focus Away From Alcohol
Alcohol is often centered in holiday celebrations, but it doesn’t have to be. For people who don’t struggle with addiction, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine with dinner or a celebratory glass of egg nog, but it’s also not necessary to have a good time or to bond with family. One important thing that you can do to shift the focus away from alcohol is to suggest or arrange activities that don’t involve drinking.
- For example, winter sports like skiing, sledding, or ice skating can be a fun way to spend time together that doesn’t need to involve alcohol.
- Pumpkin picking, caroling, or volunteering are also fun and rewarding holiday activities that don’t need to be enhanced with alcohol.
If you’re looking for something more low-key, just substitute alcohol with something else. For example, if you’re looking forward to just sitting around chatting and catching up with family members that you don’t see often after the meal is finished or after all of the presents are opened, why not do it over mugs of coffee or hot chocolate instead of glasses of wine?
It’s not necessarily that nobody is allowed to drink around the person with the addiction. However, drinking doesn’t have to be as prominent as it might have been in previous years. And it goes without saying that you should disallow or discourage family members from partaking in any illegal addictive substances at the family holiday celebration.
2. Engage in Honest Communication
It’s one thing to downplay the role that alcohol plays in your holiday celebration. But is that enough? Should you avoid serving alcohol at all? What about cooking with alcohol – is that OK, given that only trace amounts of alcohol remain in a completed dish? Or is even the flavor of alcohol too much?
A lot depends on the person with the addiction. In general, someone who’s new to recovery might need to avoid even being in the presence of alcohol. At the same time, someone who has been sober for years might not struggle as much. But this isn’t a hard and fast rule.
Relapses can occur at any time – someone who’s been sober for two years but is really struggling right now might be more vulnerable than someone who is brand new to recovery but feeling positive and motivated. The only way to know for certain is to ask.
Yes, asking a person who is in recovery about their addiction can be a delicate subject. But you can support addiction recovery if you’re coming from a place of love. Don’t be nosy or invasive, but do let the person know that you care about them and want them to feel safe and comfortable. Because of that, you could use their input on these questions.
Let them know that you want them to be honest – be willing to host a completely dry holiday celebration if that’s what they need. If the person is comfortable with alcohol around them, ask them to name a few of their favorite non-alcoholic drinks so that they have enjoyable options as well.
3. Keep the Stress Levels Low
Many people just accept that the holidays are a stressful time. But excess stress can be bad for someone in recovery, and it’s not great for everyone else, either. And there’s really no reason why holidays have to be so stressful.
To support addiction recovery within your family, it’s important to keep the stress levels as low as possible. Why not resolve to make this year’s holiday season low-stress, and encourage others to do the same?
- Suggest having potluck holiday meals so that one host doesn’t have to make a lot of different dishes for many people.
- Implement a secret Santa or another similar system for buying presents so that everyone only has to worry about buying a present for one other person.
- Don’t get caught up in competition. It’s fine to decorate minimally or to not add any new decorations to your household this year.
- Encourage those around you to make sure that they get regular rest and exercise during the holiday weeks. Set an example by making sure that you get regular rest and exercise during the holiday season yourself.
- Include the person in recovery in relaxing, low-stress activities, like a walk in the park or a yoga class. Or ask them to come outside and help you build a snowman, then relax in front of the fireplace with hot chocolate.
Remember that the holiday season is supposed to be fun and a break from the everyday routine. It’s a chance to reconnect with loved ones and celebrate the good things in your lives. If people are feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, frustrated, or angry, then something isn’t right. Do what you can to encourage less stress and more peace and happiness, even if that doesn’t result in a holiday that looks picture-perfect.
A Final Note
You can’t conquer an addiction for your loved one, and it’s up to them to keep their recovery on track. But as family, you can support addiction recovery and help create an environment that’s conducive to recovery during the holidays, and that can be a great gift for the person in recovery.