Updated: December 1, 2020
The holidays are often a time for joy and celebration, but for many people in recovery, the holidays can also bring stress, fear, and relapse. It is important to find the right balance that protects your loved one’s recovery while still allowing you to enjoy the season. Below are a few ways that you can do that.
1. Practice Open Communication
If you are spending the holidays with someone in recovery, be sure to check whether they are comfortable with being around alcohol. Let your loved ones know that they are an important part of your celebration and that you want to do everything you can so they feel at ease and can enjoy the festivities. One way to do this is by encouraging them to invite a fellow person in recovery to the party. By having someone around who understands what they are going through, it will be easier for your loved one to handle any potential stressors. If they are not ready to be around alcohol regardless of who is with them, do not serve any. Sure, there might be a person or two who might miss their beer or glass of wine, but the holidays are about spending time with your loved ones, not about drinking.
2. Do Not Make Alcohol the Focus
Intentional or not, alcohol is often an integral part of celebrating the holidays. Families spend hours sitting around and drinking while catching up and reminiscing, which can make your loved one feel uncomfortable and isolated. While we do not suggest that you stop talking with your relatives, we do suggest a change of scenery. Try starting a new family holiday tradition such as going ice skating, sledding, having a snowball fight, or going on a socially-distanced hike. It will allow everyone to enjoy the fresh air (something that everyone can benefit from!) and bond without alcohol.
3. Reduce Stress
There are often high expectations surrounding year-end celebrations that can lead to anxiety and stress. Try reducing the pressure by lowering the bar and not striving for perfection. One huge stressor is trying to find and buy the ultimate gifts. This year, due to the financial toll that the coronavirus has taken, everyone, not just those in recovery, can benefit from a less gift-centric celebration. So, instead of giving and receiving a bunch of gifts this year, organize a white elephant. This affordable gift exchange where each person buys only one gift will take the stress out of the gift-giving process and help everyone focus on what matters most — your loved ones.
4. Surround Them with Support
The holidays are a particularly busy time for everyone, but it is important for your loved one to make time to connect with their support network. Encourage them to reach out to their sponsor and friends in recovery. Suggest that they attend an extra meeting or two before a holiday celebration. Having a strong support network during this time of year will help your loved one stress less and enjoy more.
While you prepare to make this holiday season comfortable for your loved one, do remember to give equal attention to your own needs. Addiction is a family disease, so make sure to get some extra support too during this time. Try attending a Virtual Family Support Group, Al-Anon, or Nar-Anon meeting and speak with others who are in similar situations. They may be able to share suggestions for fun, no-alcohol activities as well as tips on how to handle any sticky situations that may pop up. Remember, taking care of yourself is an important part of taking care of your loved one.