The holiday season is filled with warmth and happiness. Many spend the last few months of the year eagerly awaiting these special dates in a state of joy, and families gather together to dine and celebrate. For others, however, the holidays season brings an array of negative emotions and can be hard to get through. This is especially true for those in addiction recovery. Besides the regular stress of present-buying and holiday travel, those in recovery face additional obstacles during the season. Fortunately, if someone you care about is in recovery, there are tips you can offer to help them get through difficult situations.
Staying Sober at Gatherings
Regardless of culture and religion, the typical holiday gathering involves an abundance of alcohol, and being surrounded by substances can be difficult for those in recovery. This could be a trigger for relapse, or simply put the person in a very uncomfortable spot. The excitement of spending time with friends and family can turn into anxiety about encountering alcohol in every corner. Here are some steps your loved one can take to manage such situations:
- Offer your support. Before attending a party or gathering, it’s important to talk to a friend or relative who will also be there about the situation. Having a support buddy to talk to in moments of discomfort provides a safety net for your loved one.
- Take a break. If a situation is stressful, it is okay to take a break. Advise your friend or relative in recovery to go for a walk, call their sponsor, or read a chapter in a book.
- Don’t be scared to leave. Your loved one may feel obligated to stay through the whole gathering, but they should always remember that recovery comes first. It is absolutely okay to remove oneself from an environment that may be triggering, and the family and friends at the event will understand.
- Attend a meeting. Always remember that there are local AA/NA meeting for additional support! If your loved one plans to travel, help them do some research to find their nearest meeting.
Coping with Holiday Blues
Another reason the holiday season is difficult for some is it often brings along bouts of sadness. Whether it is from missing a loved one who is no longer with us, feeling financially inept or other reasons, depression is often present around these times. Since almost one-third of people with major depression also have a substance abuse problem, it is not uncommon to deal with holiday blues while in recovery. However, there are things those in recovery can do to keep their spirits up:
- Don’t isolate. If your loved one is feeling down, they may feel like they don’t have the strength to attend events or hang out with anyone. However, staying cooped up will only give their mind room to fill with negative thoughts. Even small outings such as visiting a relative or having lunch with a friend can help.
- Get in the spirit of giving. Practicing generosity will not only help others, but it will help your loved one feel good as well. They can donate presents for underprivileged children, make care packages for the homeless, or even volunteer with a local organization.
- Practice gratitude. Breaking the chains of addiction is no easy task, but they have managed to do it and are now living a sober life! Your loved one can make a list of things they are grateful for, send “thank you” cards as needed, and remember the countless ways in which recovery has made their life better.
Supporting Loved Ones in Recovery
There are ways to be helpful and supportive throughout the season. Let your loved ones know that you are proud of them. Offer to be his or her support buddy, and be there for them to listen, step outside the party for a while, or even join them in sobriety at certain events. Most importantly, remind them that recovery is the best gift they can give you.
The holiday season can be a stressful time for people in recovery, but it can still be filled with love and joy. After all, the holidays are not about drinking or using – they are about showing love and gratitude. If you find yourself or a loved one needing help with a substance addiction, please don’t hesitate to call us at 855-545-6777. Our admissions counselors are glad to answer any questions you may have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – even on holidays.