The holiday season can be a difficult time for anyone, especially those in recovery. If somebody you love has recently gotten clean and sober, you’re probably worried about helping maintain their recovery and want to support them.
If you’re stressed about the holidays, you probably realize that your recovering loved one gets stressed, too. So how do you support a loved one in recovery this time of year?
Tips for Family and Friends This Holiday Season
The best advice is always to lend your ear or a shoulder to cry on, but you may not always be able to do that. Here are some other ways to support a loved one in recovery during the holidays:
- Ask your loved one what, if anything, they need from you to feel supported. That may mean putting the wine in a separate room from the dinner (or eliminating it altogether.) Consider making holiday gatherings substance-free to create a safe environment and support a loved one in early recovery.
- Allow your loved one to make their own choices about taking part in activities. Don’t be upset if they decide to leave for a few hours to go to a 12-step meeting or head to bed early for self-care. Don’t pressure them.
- Focus on self-care for yourself every day. It may seem strange to tell you to focus on yourself, but people who just got sober are looking for role models. Talk about how you’re taking a long bath to de-stress and make gentle suggestions such as taking a walk if you notice your loved one feeling stressed. But don’t condescend; they have probably learned a few tools by now to take care of themselves.
- Don’t allow people to guilt your family member, if possible. If a sensitive topic comes up, ask “Can we talk about this later?” Although you can’t be everywhere at once, this can be a great relief if you happen to come across a conversation.
The holidays often come with a lot of expectations. While on television and in other media, families have the perfect holiday, the truth is that holidays can be stressful for everyone, regardless of whether a person has a substance use disorder. Holidays can often magnify feelings of guilt, shame, and resentment for families, and it may be difficult for a loved one struggling to stay clean from an addiction to cope with those feelings.
Please respect the decisions of your loved one if they choose to leave early or not attend a function. If you really want to celebrate holidays with them, think of an alternative such as a dinner and a movie the day before or after the holiday. Let them know you love them and that’s why you want to see them.
Getting Help for an Addiction
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