Supporting a Loved One in Recovery During the Holidays
The holiday season can be a mix of joy and stress for everyone, but for people in recovery from substance use disorder, the holidays can present extra challenges. If your holiday celebrations will include a loved one who is newly sober, you might be wondering how to host your family gathering in a way that will be comfortable and enjoyable for everyone. As a family member of someone in recovery, rest assured there are plenty of things you can do to ensure your entire family enjoys a safe, healthy, and joyous holiday together.
The Holidays in Recovery
Celebrating the holidays with a family member in recovery may seem tricky at first, but with thoughtful consideration and some good communication, your family holiday can be completely rewarding for everyone. Having your loved one home and surrounded by family means you have much to celebrate. Focusing on all your family has to be grateful for is a great way to start that celebration. And being mindful of the stresses and triggers your loved one may be facing will help them feel supported as they navigate this season that can feel like a minefield of temptation.
Some holiday-related triggers for people in recovery include:
- Parties where alcohol is served
- Seeing old friends, especially ones who are not yet sober
- Difficult family dynamics
- Issues with debt and finances
- Feelings of shame or guilt about past actions
- Social anxiety at holiday gatherings
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Tips for Holiday Celebrations with a Loved One in Recovery
Fortunately, for many in recovery, the holidays are a very happy time. Sharing the holidays with family and friends can help people feel supported and uplifted. To ensure your loved one in recovery has the happiest holiday possible, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Ask your family member if they’re comfortable attending the family celebrations this year. Remember that celebrating the holidays together is not a requirement. Make sure your loved one knows that it is perfectly acceptable to skip this year’s festivities if they feel that’s what is best for them and their recovery.
- Ask yourself if you’re ready to spend the holidays together as a family. Does your family understand addiction and embrace the process of recovery? Are there unresolved hurt feelings and resentments that could make the holidays difficult for everyone involved? It’s important to ask yourself and the rest of your family these hard questions and be honest with yourself about the answers. Getting together too soon, when not everyone is ready, can not only make the day uncomfortable, it can be risky for the person in recovery.
- If you plan to serve alcohol, ask your family member if they’re comfortable with it. Give your family member the opportunity to decide for themselves if they are comfortable with being at a party where others are drinking. It’s important to ask and don’t assume anything. For some people, it might be more uncomfortable being at a party where alcohol isn’t served specifically because of their presence. Likewise, ask your loved one what they would like to drink. Don’t assume they would like to drink “mocktails”. Many in recovery enjoy these but for others, they can serve as a trigger to partake in the real thing. Also, beware of non-alcoholic wine or beer, as they can still contain traces of alcohol.
- Ask if they’d like to invite a friend who’s also in recovery. Whether or not alcohol is being served, your family member in recovery might feel more comfortable having a sober friend by their side. Allowing them to bring a friend also gives your loved one the opportunity to extend a warm welcome to someone in their recovery community who may otherwise be spending the holidays alone.
- Ask your family member if there’s anything you can do to make the holiday better for them. This may seem overly simple, but much of what you can do to ensure the best holiday for everyone is to just simply ask. Clear communication will help you avoid missteps that come from making assumptions and will empower your family member in recovery to speak up for what they need to feel comfortable and supported.
- Remember that you are not responsible for your family member’s recovery. Attempting to help your loved one in recovery with behind the scenes orchestrations can actually make things more uncomfortable for everyone involved. Instead, communicate openly and honestly, and be careful to listen and honor the answers to your questions.
Tips for Individuals in Recovery
Celebrating the holidays with family members can present challenges for the recovering addict as well. These tips will help ensure individuals in recovery can celebrate the season while safeguarding their hard-won sobriety.
- Plan ahead for the holidays. Build-in extra support group meetings, calls to your sponsor or sober coach, meetings with your therapist, and anything else that keeps you on track in recovery.
- Allow for time and space. People in early recovery can be in a very raw emotional state, and the holidays can be overwhelming at the best of times. Give yourself opportunities to step away from the hustle and bustle and take a walk, call a friend, go to a meeting, or even excuse yourself early from a holiday party if that is what you need to do.
- Identify your triggers and take steps to address them. Now is a good time to have a solid relapse prevention plan in place. A relapse prevention plan helps you to identify potential triggers and outline clear steps to take if you encounter them.
- Stay connected with your support team. Be sure and invest extra energy in keeping in touch with your key support people, whether that’s sober friends in recovery, your sponsor, or your alumni group. Strengthening your connections during the holidays helps you feel strong and supported during challenging times.
- Focus on what you have to be grateful for and reflect on how far you’ve come – Making it through addiction into recovery was no easy feat, so remember how far you have come. You have a lot to be proud of!
The holiday season can be a wonderful time of year, but it is not always easy to make it through when you have a loved one in recovery or are dealing with your own recovery. Remember to keep the channels of communication open when deciding how to proceed with holiday celebrations. Listen to yourself and listen to your loved ones. Honor everyone’s feelings and wishes even if that means skipping the festivities this year so that you can celebrate next year.
If you or someone you love are struggling with addiction or feeling like your sobriety might be in jeopardy this holiday season, Legacy Healing Center is here to help. Our staff, many of whom are recovering addicts themselves, understand what you are going through. We’re standing by 24/7 ready to talk. Call 888.511.8676 today. Calls are completely confidential.
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