Navigating the Holidays with an Addicted Loved One

Navigating the Holidays with an Addicted Loved One

The holidays are a time of special gatherings and fun, but, for those who struggle with addiction, the holidays can feel like walking through a mine field: office parties, family celebrations, buying just the right gifts and balancing social commitments can create stress for people who must work simply to stay sober. Wherever your loved one is on her journey with addiction, there are ways to make the holidays easier, and the following suggestions can help you succeed during this season:

Keep the Schedule Manageable

Schedules and commitments tend to get out of hand during the holidays, so, to help your loved one cope with stress, keep as predictable a schedule as possible. Encourage extended family members to have a family gathering at your house rather than multiple parties in multiple places, because then you can control the substances that are served the gathering. When it comes to other party invitations, help your loved one prioritize one or two parties outside the family. Consider one family meeting, one work-related party and one activity for New Year’s Eve, and then let other commitments go. The more you help your loved one focus on the events that are important for sobriety, the less likely she is to feel overwhelmed with too many invitations.

Entertain Without Alcohol

Along with having your main holiday gathering at your house, let extended family members know ahead of time that your party will be alcohol free. No matter at what stage of addiction or recovery your loved one is in, having an alcohol-free party lets him know that you and his other loved ones support his sobriety. You can send a powerful message of support to your loved one is you show him that you will do whatever it takes to help him stay clean and sober.

Know the Recovery Plan

One of the most important parts of the recovery process is sticking to the treatment plan. Whether your loved one has recently completed treatment or has been on the recovery journey for years, you can help her stay on course by knowing her schedule for meetings and therapy sessions as well as her relapse triggers. To this end, keep a schedule of support group meetings on the refrigerator or family bulletin board. Furthermore, have the number of your loved one’s therapist handy at all times. Lastly, learn what her relapse triggers are and help her avoid them. Remember, you cannot make decisions for your loved one, but you can encourage the right behaviors by showing your support.

Encourage Quality Sleep Routines

Quality sleep is important for everyone, but especially for those who are recovering from addiction. Writing for Psychology Today, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., states in her article, “12 Sure-Fire Ways to Enjoy Any Holiday,” that wellbeing is intimately tied to quality of sleep[i]. Ergo, sticking to bedtimes, shutting down electronics early, coming home at reasonable hours from parties and taking time to wind down before bed can all increase quality sleep. If you get the right amount of sleep, then you can help yourself and your addicted loved one focus on recovery and maintain a better state of mind. Lack of sleep leads to tiredness during the day, which increases the temptation to turn to substances as a boost. In response, better sleep means better chances to avoid relapse.

Stick to Your Exercise Routine

It is easy to make excuses for avoiding exercise during the holidays, but, for recovering addicts, maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit is crucial to continued success. In response, encourage your loved one to stick to the exercise plan she developed during treatment. Furthermore, volunteer to go with her to the gym, or take walks together during the day. Or, you could find other activities you both enjoy to add to the exercise routine. If your loved one is too busy to exercise, then her schedule is too full and needs to change.

Find a Family Support Group

Supporting a loved one through the recovery process takes courage and determination, but supporting him through the holiday season takes knowledge and resources. Find support groups for families of recovering addicts to fortify your arsenal of recovery tools during this challenging time of year. Family support groups offer safe and secure environments for family members of recovering addicts to share their fears, struggles, successes and failures. In fact, family members of recovering addicts have unique insight into the behaviors that help and hurt recovery, so you can learn from these insiders as you attend these meetings. Support groups for families also provide a non-judgmental atmosphere in which you can learn how to navigate recovery in a way that fosters hope. Getting through the holidays is much easier when you have others who know your journey well.

Find Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

If you have a loved one who is recovering from addiction, then getting through the holidays without a relapse can be challenging. However, with the right resources and help, you can navigate this stressful time of the year with your loved one. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.


[i] Whitbourne, Susan Krauss. “12 Sure-Fire Ways to Enjoy Any Holiday.” Psychology Today. Accessed November 13, 2015.