Supporting loved ones in recovery over the holidays
The holidays can be a cheerful, painful, or chaotic time for anyone. It can be especially challenging for those in recovery. Holidays are filled with family and friend gatherings, memories of years past, and a break from the normal routine. Any of those things can add extra stress to a person in recovery.
Family and friends may have the same habits that the person in recovery is trying to avoid. They may not be supportive toward the person in recovery and may even try to get them to have a drink or other substance. Just being around these people can be a trigger point for the person in recovery. The holidays are a time of reflection and some of the memories may be painful memories, which can lead a person to relapse. The pandemic has been another stressor this holiday season and will continue into 2022 at the very least.
- Be cognizant that many individuals may choose not to consume alcohol, and we should refrain from asking them why. No one should feel obligated to explain their reasons for abstaining from alcohol use and asking about the behavior sends the message that it is atypical, odd, or curious.
- Ensure that there are alcohol-free beverage options at holiday events that are as visible as alcoholic beverages. The prominent placement of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages communicates that either option is equally acceptable.
- When possible, confine all alcoholic beverages to one area in a home or holiday party venue, rather than dispersing it throughout. There should be spaces in which there are no alcohol cues or availability.
- Respect individuals’ limits and boundaries around their alcohol consumption. If you offer a guest a drink and they say “no, thank you” or “I better not,” respect their limits without asking multiple times or trying to persuade them to drink. Michael K. Schmit, an associate professor at Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies, noted, “It’s hard when others don’t consider or respect the boundaries an individual puts in place around alcohol. They may have good intentions of wanting people to be merry and have a good time, but fun and enjoyment can look differently for different people.” And for many, a good time does not involve alcohol.
- Host alcohol-free events during the holiday season. Although social norms may associate holidays with alcohol consumption, this does not need to continue to be the standard. Alcohol-free events can be a welcome change for many and a time for all guests to enjoy the benefits of non-substance-related rewards (e.g., conversations with friends, good food, recreational activities, spiritual practices, music, humor).
- Check in on friends who are in recovery over the holidays. For some people, the holiday season can be isolating and challenging as normal routines are disrupted. A phone call, text, or visit to let someone in recovery know you are thinking about them could be welcome encouragement.
- Know their Triggers – Addicts and you should know their triggers for relapse and how to manage them, Dr. Martin says. The most common triggers correspond to the acronym HALT — when they feel hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. They need to care for themselves, mentally and physically, to ward off these triggers.
- Help the person avoid people and places that they previously used drugs with or at.
- Allow the person to bring a supportive (not drug using) friend along to holiday events. This person can provide support and help distract him/her from potentially stressful situations and conversations.
- Let them know you are there to talk about it if they want to and not talk about it at all if they prefer it that way.
- Remember to show love and compassion while not casting shame.
- Remember this is a lifelong process and don’t expect that after so much time has passed everything is fine. They are still in a battle every day.
- Learn everything you can about substance abuse and recovery.
Happy holidays and we hope your 2022 is the best year yet! For more information about recovery, please contact us for resources. https://hopegrows.us