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How to Support Loved Ones in Recovery During the Holidays

The holidays are often challenging for recovering addicts. How can you best care for them during this difficult time?

How to Support Loved Ones in Recovery During the Holidays

A woman supporting her recovering friend

Take the time to listen to your recovering loved one this holiday season.

The Holidays Come with Unique Challenges for Recovering Addicts

While this time of year does come with its share of warmth and merriment for many people, it can also be particularly tough on recovering addicts. While well intentioned, holiday traditions and activities can often turn into triggers for people in recovery and cause them to relapse. In this article, we will give you helpful tips on how to care for your recovering loved one during this potentially hazardous season.

1. Stand by Your Loved One, Not Over Them

What a recovering addict needs most from others during the holidays is loving support, not overbearing guidance. You may feel tempted to monitor your loved one’s every move and tell them what to do, but this type of behavior will only stress them out and could cause them to backslide into old, unhealthy habits. Instead, you should view yourself as walking alongside them in this process as an ally, not a taskmaster.

Be Sober with Them

One of the best ways you can walk alongside your loved one is to stand with them in sobriety. Attending holiday events can be especially trying for recovering addicts when they see everyone else enjoying the activity they’re recovering from. By agreeing to abstain from it with them, you will help them to feel less alone.

Encourage Your Loved One to Maintain Their Sober Lifestyle

Part of standing with your loved one in sobriety is not becoming a hindrance to the healthy lifestyle they’ve been cultivating during their recovery. If your loved one is returning home for the holidays, then you should be aware that the old familiar environment can encourage all sorts of old unhealthy lifestyle habits, which can lead to a relapse. So be proactive in helping your loved one to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Take the Time to Listen to Them

Don’t let your busy holiday schedule become an excuse to ignore your recovering loved one, especially when they reach out and need to talk. All most recovering addicts need is a listening ear. You don’t have to have all the answers; just be willing to drop everything and listen. If you feel like what they’re telling you requires a more capable ear than your own, encourage them to join a recovery group where they can get the qualified support they need.

2. Be Flexible with Holiday Activities

Holiday traditions are great, but they shouldn’t come at the expense of your recovering loved one’s health. So, before engaging in your regularly-scheduled festive activities, you should run them by your loved one and find out if they feel comfortable participating in them this year. It may be the case that certain activities must go because they could be too harmful to the recovery process.

Prepare Friends and Relatives Ahead of Time

Don’t assume your friends and relatives will know how to handle interacting with your recovering addict at holiday gatherings. Instead, take the time to inform them of your loved one’s unique situation before the events. Tell them any topics or types of behavior they should avoid so that they won’t inadvertently trigger a relapse.

Also, keep people apprised of any traditional activities you won’t be engaging in this year for the sake of your loved one’s recovery. If they are informed of these changes ahead of time, they will be less likely to talk about them during the event and make your loved one feel guilty for their absence.

Focus on Non-Threatening Holiday Activities

While some of your old holiday traditions will likely have to go, you can also take the opportunity to start new ones that are more conducive to recovery. For example, if the loud and lively atmosphere of your usual family party is too much of a trigger for your recovering addict, consider having a more laid-back gathering with quieter holiday activities, such as playing board games, watching old movies, or singing Christmas carols.

3. Reduce Holiday Pressures

We all know the holidays can be a stressful time of year, but for those in recovery, those stresses can become dangerous and even life-threatening if not handled well. That’s why it’s crucial that you be there to help your loved one cope.

Remind Them It’s Okay to Decline Invitations

Even though they are supposed to be fun and relaxing, sometimes holiday activities can feel like terrifying obligations to recovering addicts. They may perceive pressure to say yes to invitations even when no demand exists. In these situations, you should remind them that their health is more important than any perceived social obligation. They know their circumstances better than anyone else, and it’s okay to decline an invitation if they feel in any way threatened by it.

Keep Them from Feeling Singled Out

Avoid making your loved one feel like the center of attention by being discrete when you take steps to make holiday activities safer for them. Try to make the holidays feel as normal as possible by not making a big deal of the changes you’re making to accommodate your loved one’s needs. This way they won’t feel guilty or stressed out about burdening you with their recovery process.

Have an Escape Plan

It’s a good idea to sit down with your loved one before the holiday festivities begin and set up a plan for what to do if situations arise that make them tempted to relapse. Help them mentally prepare for how they will manage these moments, and tell them that you will always be there–whether it’s in person or over the phone–if they need help. By being willing to drop everything for them in their time of need, you will help ease the pressure they feel during holiday festivities.

If you need assistance caring for your recovering loved one this holiday season, call New Directions Addiction Recovery Services at (779) 220-0336. We are a nonprofit organization based in Crystal Lake, IL, that takes a comprehensive approach to helping individuals recover from addiction.