If you have a loved one in your life who is battling addiction, you understand that recovery and sobriety are lengthy and difficult processes. You may also be unaware of the unique challenges the holiday season can pose to those in recovery. Travel, family problems, lack of local resources, and pressure to imbibe can create a stressful environment with no way out for an addicted loved one.
As a result, a high number of relapses occur during the holidays – and these relapses can be deadly. When a person on the path to sobriety uses drugs or drinks excessively after being clean, he or she risks overdose or alcohol poisoning. In addition, these relapses can knock a recovering person off the path to recovery for good.
If a recovering loved one is spending the holidays with you this year, take a few simple actions to ensure a happy, healthy winter.
Be Mindful of Peer Pressure
Many people celebrate the holiday season with large gatherings, dinners, and holiday parties. Alcohol and drug use often occur at these gatherings. If someone refrains from using substances during these gatherings, it may raise eyebrows among other guests who aren’t aware of this person’s struggle with sobriety. As a result, your recovering loved one could feel pressure to drink or use drugs.
During these gatherings, keep an eye on your loved one. Inform the host of your loved one’s sobriety, if you both feel comfortable doing so. If someone tries to place a glass of wine in your loved one’s hand, pressures him or her to use drugs, or starts a drinking game, don’t be afraid to step in. However, it’s important not to be confrontational – you don’t want to cause embarrassment or shame to your loved one, even if it’s out of protection.
The other person may not take no for an answer, so prepare calm, measured diversion tactics to get your loved one away from the situation. For example, a simple and low-risk escape strategy is to ask your loved one to come with you so that you can show him or her something outside, in another room, or on the other side of the party. You can also ask if he or she would like to go outside for some fresh air.
Offer Non-Alcoholic Options
Another way to avoid pressure to drink during a holiday party or gathering is to bring non-alcoholic options to the table. If you are hosting a gathering, make sure to offer a variety of equally attractive beverage options for your loved one and other sober guests. Sparkling apple cider, fruit juices, non-alcoholic punches and eggnog, and sodas are popular and delicious options. If you are attending a gathering with your loved one and you’re not sure if the host will be offering non-alcoholic beverages, bring your own.
Cultivate a Low-Stress Environment
Stress is a major factor in relapses. When we suffer stress, we turn to our favorite coping mechanisms for relief – for your formerly addicted loved one, drugs and/or alcohol were his or her primary coping strategy before beginning the sobriety journey.
The holidays can exacerbate this stress, especially if your loved one is leaving support systems and resources, which increases relapse anxiety. If the home is a place where your loved one started using drugs or alcohol, the space can bring back bad memories. If your loved one has a strained relationship with any of the family members, an argument or confrontation can increase stress levels.
If you are hosting your loved one for the holidays, create a low-stress environment in your home. Discuss your concerns with other household members and encourage them to practice kindness and patience around your loved one. In case a confrontation arises, create a safe, calm space in your home where your loved one can escape. This space can have addiction recovery resources, meditation books, a comfortable bed to lie on, or other items that help your loved one feel calm, safe, and secure. Let your loved one know that this space is available for de-stressing.
Offer Emotional Support
Sometimes, alone time isn’t enough. Sometimes, your loved one will need someone to talk to during the holidays when things start to get tough. If you feel comfortable doing so, let your loved one know that you’re available to provide emotional support when needed – and keep this promise. Make sure to listen actively and closely to what your loved one tells you during these times. Once he or she has had a chance to speak, ask what you can do to help.
Addiction can cause a lot of harm to relationships and family dynamics. People who are addicted to alcohol and drugs can inflict a lot of emotional and physical pain on the ones they love. Property damage, theft, and stress are also common among family members of addicted people. Now that your loved one is on the path to sobriety and healing, you may still feel resentment, hurt, and anger about things that happened in the past.
When your recovering loved one travels to your home for the holiday season, he or she is leaving behind more than you think. During the holidays, your loved one may lose access to a treatment facility, therapist, primary care provider, local support group, and other sobriety resources. In these situations, it’s important to identify local resources in your area.
Gather resources about local Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous support groups, sobriety hotlines, local mental health resources, and other sobriety groups in your area. Encourage your loved one to collect the contact information of his or her sponsor and support group so they can stay in touch over the holidays. You can also print or purchase written resources, such as the Alcoholics Anonymous big book or meditation guides, to keep on hand.
If your loved one experiences a relapse this holiday season, stay calm. Recovery is seldom a straight line; often, people will relapse a few times before they beat their addictions. The most important action to take in this situation is to let your loved one know that relapse is normal, but that he or she needs to seek help immediately to move forward.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment program for your loved one, contact Windmill Wellness Ranch today. We provide holistic and balanced care for those on the path to sobriety, combining physical, mental, and spiritual health treatments for an inclusive and long-lasting recovery.