The holidays add a whole new level of stress to those who struggle with addiction. Those in recovery will feel the challenge that comes with navigating a minefield of temptations that are part of the celebration of this time of year. The first year of recovery is the hardest. During the holiday season, one comes under the spell of abundant food and drink. Depression and anxiety may abound, and it’s important to have the support of family members if you’re in addiction recovery during the holidays.
Abstaining from substance use during the holidays will be easier for your loved ones in recovery if you’re able to pay attention to their mental health. For that person, boundaries are especially important. This may affect family members, so all should be aware of and ready to honor the words, “no, thank you.”
Provide options for loved ones in recovery
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Supporting family members who are in recovery during the holidays might mean asking some questions beforehand, as well as becoming aware of some options you can offer. “Mocktails” can be great for those who appreciate them, or hot spiced cider, hot cocoa, iced or hot tea and coffee. You could ask the person, ahead of time, what drinks they would prefer.
Be aware that non-alcoholic beer and wine may have traces of alcohol. The taste can be triggering, and it’s not a great option for someone recovering from abuse of alcohol.
Are you ready to celebrate with someone who is recovering?
Since addiction affects everyone, unresolved issues can become an “elephant in the room.” Be clear about your relationship to the person, while asking if members of the family are ready to welcome and celebrate with the recovering person. Be open to having an honest conversation if you’re worried about them attending.
Check to see if your recovering guest is okay being around alcohol
Some people may not even want to be at an event where others are drinking or using substances. It is better to be upfront and honor this than it is to avoid the subject. Your loved ones in recovery during the holidays will be able to make an empowered decision. If they miss this celebration, they are more likely to be around for future ones with your support.
Give them space
They may want to step away and take a walk. In fact, they may want to leave early. You will need to respect this part of their attention to their own needs. Holidays are not the place for confrontations or overdue apologies. If there are matters to be discussed, arrange a future time and place other than the holiday season.
Just in case
Before an event, you might want the person to carry a list with their sponsor’s phone number and numbers of other peer support people, plus information on AA and NA meetings nearby. You might also have a number for an emergency treatment available. If a relapse has occurred, speak up without adding shame and guilt and assist the person in getting the help they need.
Know that family visits and gatherings may bring up memories from the past that are more dysfunctional than joyous. You can help make this time of the year smoother by being aware of cues that might trigger cravings and offering support to your family member while they head towards the path of a sober and fulfilled life.