The holidays are often a time when families come together and spend time celebrating, eating, exchanging gifts, and sharing stories. And while many people envision a picture-perfect setting, that’s rarely how things play out. While there may be plenty of smiles, laughter, and positive memories made, there can also be stress, arguments, and mishaps as well. All of these things can add to the challenges of the holidays for individuals in recovery.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can support a loved one in recovery over the holidays and help to make it a more enjoyable experience for all.
Ask how you can help. One of the best ways to support a loved one is to be open and simply ask them what they need or what you can do. Are there certain situations they want to avoid? Specific food or beverages they prefer? People they might not feel comfortable interacting with? Take all of these things into consideration when planning holiday get togethers.
Be mindful of alcohol. This includes not just beverages, but food as well. As you’re busy planning mocktails, buying sparkling juices, or making sure you have enough mulled apple cider, you may also want to look at the dishes you’re serving. Instead of the traditional rum cake, make an alcohol-free dessert instead. Double-check there are no liqueur-filled chocolates being passed around either so the person isn’t accidentally exposed to alcohol.
Start new traditions. Looking back on holidays past may drudge up some unpleasant memories. Now that your loved one is in recovery and making healthier decisions, you may want to start fresh with the holidays too by beginning a new tradition. Volunteer at a soup kitchen together, see a holiday show, go for a walk around the block, or take a break to play games or watch a movie. A change of pace can be good for everyone.
Be flexible. Realize that not everything may go as planned. It may be easier to limit family dinner to a smaller group if there are still hard feelings, or hold two separate events. If your loved one needs to leave early to attend a support group meeting or because they’re feeling overwhelmed, respect that decision. Check in to see what you can do to be more supportive.
Remember that people are more than their addiction. Yes, your loved one may have struggled with drugs or alcohol in the past, but that does not define them. It is just one part of their life and they have so much more to offer. Focus on enjoying the time you have together and talking about things you both like. Play games, dance to music, cook your favorite dishes, exchange gifts, and live in the present. Realize that sometimes it’s better to let go of hard feelings and try to move on.
Do your best to make everyone feel welcomed and appreciated this holiday season. Work together with those in recovery to best meet their needs and support their journey. Keep an open mind and be flexible with plans to accommodate necessary changes. And if you are concerned that a loved one has relapsed or is struggling with active addiction, get them the help they need at Seacliff.