Tips for Supporting a Loved One in Recovery During the Holidays

November 16th, 2018

The holidays can be a great time for gathering with our friends and family to celebrate the season. However, for those recovering from addiction, holidays can bring a fresh level of stress. Not only do hectic family gatherings involve juggling schedules, loads of small talk, and perhaps some tough conversations, but many holiday parties involve, and even revolve around, alcohol. Someone recovering from substance abuse may find themselves relapsing due to the stressful conditions of the season.

A loving and caring support network is essential for those in recovery at any time of the year, but it becomes essential during the holidays. If you have a loved one going through recovery, be ready to provide your help throughout the season. Keep these tips in mind so you can be there when your loved one needs it.

Consider Remaining Sober Over the Holidays Yourself

When heading into a family gathering, there’s a strong chance that someone will bring alcohol to enjoy. While recreational drinking can be enjoyable, it creates a dangerous situation for those going through recovery. You can show your support for your loved one by volunteering to remain sober over the holidays yourself and help to keep each other accountable. With someone to also stay away from the drinks, your loved one won’t feel pressure to join in with everyone else.

And just because a party has alcohol doesn’t mean that drinking is the only activity. Stick with your loved one as a sober buddy and join them in enjoying the music, dancing, socialization, games – whatever else may be going on for entertainment. Keeping your loved one at ease can keep them feeling comfortable, which prevents situations that can trigger drinking or drug use. You can also help your loved one avoid groups that have already had too much to drink.

Steer Clear of Uncomfortable Topics and Questions

Holiday gatherings are a time when everyone can catch up on the events of each other's lives. Friends and family members who haven't had the chance to see each other in a while are likely to talk about everything they've missed out on. However, these conversations can quickly wander into uncomfortable territory for someone going through recovery.

Respect your loved one's space and don't ask any prying questions about their substance use. You should also avoid any related topics that aren't supportive of their recovery. If your loved one starts to seem uncomfortable by a conversation, change the subject and remind others around them to do the same. If your loved one is okay with talking about it, ask them in advance if there's anything they don't feel comfortable discussing. Being supportive means providing a safe environment without judgment.

Remind Them It’s Normal to Feel Anxious

Everyone has some form of stress during the holidays, whether it’s organizing a party, preparing food, or shopping for gifts. Even so, your loved one may feel anxious about the upcoming season – and they may feel guilty about not being able to simply enjoy the holiday. Remind them that it’s okay to feel anxious during this time, no matter what else is going on.

Encourage Them to Give Their Sponsor a Call

If you notice that your loved one is feeling anxious or stressed, remind them that they don’t have to face their feelings alone. Aside from providing them with your own support, encourage your loved one to give their sponsor a call. Even when traveling, your loved one’s sponsor is still readily available as a form of support and can help your loved one through any stressful situation that may arise.

Ask If You Can Join Them for a Meeting

If your loved one is attending a support group, they already have people they can learn from and talk about their recovery with. However, that doesn't mean you can't be a part of it. Encouraging your loved one's progress helps, but committing your time to join your loved one at a meeting also shows your support. Ask your loved one if they'd be comfortable with you attending a meeting with them. Even if they decline, they'll likely still appreciate that you're willing to be there for them.

Provide an Alternate Celebration Option

If it's your loved one's first holiday season in recovery, they may not know what to do with themselves. When their previous holiday tradition was to spend time with friends who would drink or use drugs, your loved one will want to avoid these gatherings. You can help by offering an alternative, such as inviting them to your own party or even just say that your home is open to them. If your regular group hangout is your favorite bar, be willing to change locations so that your loved one can still join in on the celebration. Who knows, you may start a new tradition in the process.

As the Host, Provide Non-Alcoholic Drinks

If you’re the one hosting the gathering, you can also help by providing plenty of non-alcoholic drinking options for your loved one. Maybe even providing drink options that are more fun than your typical soda and water. You can find some really great non-alcoholic holiday drink recipes here! You can still have alcoholic beverages for your other guests, but providing alternatives means that your loved one doesn’t have to put their recovery at risk while there. If your loved one brings along their own drinks, be accepting of their decisions.

Respect Your Loved One’s Decision to Leave Early

As the night goes on, parties and gatherings can become increasingly hectic – especially when people are drinking. Your loved one may decide to leave early before more alcohol becomes involved in the situation. Support their decision, and don’t pressure them to stay any longer than they’re comfortable with. If others try to convince your loved one to stay longer, remind them that it’s okay to do what they need for their recovery. You can also leave early with your loved one and go enjoy a different activity together.

Staying Supportive Is Essential

Even during the hectic holiday season, there are plenty of things you can do to help your recovering loved one. By recognizing their troubles and showing that you want them to succeed, your loved one will know they can rely on you for help. And if more of your friends and family show they’re willing to help, the more your loved one will benefit.

Your loved one will have to make the right decisions to protect their sobriety, but your support throughout the holidays can help make the process much easier. With the encouragement of those around them, individuals recovering from substance abuse have a much easier time staying on the path to recovery and have a chance to truly enjoy the holiday season.

Sign up for our FREE Family & Friends Course

Created specifically for those who have loved ones that struggle with addiction.