‘Tis the season for cheer and gratitude, reflection and tidying. This is the season where many of us are excited to celebrate all things that come with the holidays. It is a time for families and friends to gather, eat, drink, and be merry. It’s not uncommon that most families want to celebrate their family members’ sobriety and recovery. For those battling a substance use disorder, who are new to recovery, or for those who have battled their addiction for years, the holidays come with negative emotions that leave them overwhelmed, exhausted, and sometimes full of temptation.
The Bigger Picture
The holidays are usually filled with parties, gatherings, and truly an excess of everything. Excessive eating, drinking, gathering, spending, and emotions. For those in recovery, all of this can act as a trigger for cravings and temptation.
The holiday season is the peak time for relapse. Not only are they exposed to tempting situations, but they are also more likely to encounter people they used to hang out with or use with or people who cause them a great deal of stress. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stress cues (which can be caused by people, places, things, and moods) and contact with substances are the most common trigger for relapse.
Add in the hectic schedules, chaotic family gatherings, awkward conversations, and the anxiety-filled small talk and it’s understandable why staying sober during the holidays can be so challenging.
Support from friends and family during the holiday season is extremely important. Sometimes we just need a little extra help, so we can be the best support system for our loved ones who may be struggling this holiday season. Here are seven tips that can help you help your loved one during this joyous season.
1. Ask How You Can Help. Something as simple as just asking your loved one what you can do to help can have such a positive impact. It sometimes feels too easy, or maybe having the conversation feels uncomfortable, but remember they need your support. By asking your loved one way you can help, it is allowing them to relieve some stress off their plate. Maybe they just need a listening ear, or they may request that you don’t serve alcohol at your party. Whatever it is, do your best to show them that you support them and that their requests are not burdens.
2. Reduce Holiday Pressures. The holidays are stressful. Expectations are at an all-time high. If you sense that your loved one is feeling overwhelmed or stressed, reassure them that it’s okay to skip the festivities. If they want to attend, set up an escape plan and be their escape buddy. Remind them that you are here to help them during this difficult time.
3. Consider Being Their Sober Buddy. Think about how isolating it can be to feel like you’re one of the only ones not drinking at a social gathering. Show your support by volunteering to stay sober this holiday season and to keep each other accountable.
4. Remind Them That Their Feelings are Normal. Most people feel some sort of stress during the holidays. Stress, shame, and anxiety can put a heavy cloud over holiday festivities. Remind your loved ones that it’s okay to feel anxious during this season and even share with them your stresses to help them feel less abnormal.
5. If You’re Hosting, Provide Alternative Options. Sometimes people in recovery don’t know how to celebrate without using. Maybe this is their first holiday season in recovery. Provide your loved one with a new holiday tradition that isn’t focused on temptation. If you’re hosting a party, provide a plethora of non-alcoholic drinking options that are more fun than your typical water bottles and soda cans.
6. Encourage Them to Reach Out to Their Sponsor. You can support your loved ones the best way you can, but you don’t always know what they are feeling or going through. Encourage your loved one to reach out to their sponsor or even members in their support groups. These individuals understand the emotions firsthand and can provide your loved one with stellar support.
7. Respect Your Loved One’s Choice to Leave Early. Don’t put pressure on your loved one to stay longer at an event. Support their decision to leave early and if you witness others trying to convince them to stay, step in and defuse the situation. Let your loved ones know that you support their decision to leave early and do what’s best for them.
Staying supportive of your loved one during the holiday season is essential. By recognizing their triggers and discomfort, you are showing them that you are here to help them succeed and that they can lean on you when the stress becomes overwhelming. And if more of your friends and family members are willing to help, the better! Showing your loved ones that you are here to support them throughout the holiday season can help make the process so much easier. With the encouragement of those around them, people who are recovering from substance abuse have a much easier time staying on the path of recovery. If you’re struggling to find ways to help your loved one, reach out to Sober Life Recovery. We can help you and your loved one continue down the road to sobriety. Your loved one needs your support. Call Sober Life Recovery today at (619) 542-9542.