How Should Families Deal with Addiction During the Holidays?

Last Updated on January 23, 2023

How Should Families Deal with Addiction During the Holidays?

Life with an addicted family member
can be stressful and chaotic, but during the holidays, this can sometimes be magnified. Enjoying the holiday season may seem impossible when you’re bombarded by feelings of frustration, disappointment, or dread, especially if your addicted loved one is out of control. Even if he or she is just beginning a new life in recovery, it can sometimes feel like you’re walking on eggshells just to keep things from falling apart.

Addiction Breeds Isolation

When a person becomes addicted to a substance like alcohol or drugs, the substance takes priority over everything else and becomes the central focus of that person’s life. As a result, it’s difficult for that person to establish and maintain healthy relationships, which leads to isolation.

Many addicted people will continue abusing their substance of choice to numb feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, and loneliness. However, this behavior only fans the flames of the fire and leads to poor decision-making and reckless behavior that further contributes to the disintegration of relationships.1

Similarly, if your loved one is addicted, his or her behavior may leave you feeling neglected or angry. You may face financial difficulties, legal consequences, verbal and/or sexual abuse, or homelessness as a result of the substance abuse. While trying to cope with it all, you may deny that the problem exists or withdraw from friends and family to avoid questions and comments about your loved one’s behavior.

No matter what your situation is this holiday season, you should know that you don’t have to face it alone. Dealing with substance abuse and addiction in the family can be extremely isolating and although it’s tempting to withdrawal from friends and loved ones due to embarrassment or fear of what they might think, choosing to open up to a trusted friend, family member, or counselor can help you solve your problems and relieve some of the stress that’s keeping you from relaxing this holiday season.

Alcohol and the Holidays

Families affected by addiction may face additional challenges during the holiday season because overindulging in alcohol is common this time of year. Social norms tell us that alcohol is a necessary part of our holiday celebrations and as a result, there are more frequent opportunities to drink (and to drink a lot).

Attempting to navigate the holidays when a loved one is struggling with alcoholism is difficult. Tensions can also run high if a loved one is in the early stages of recovery and many family holiday activities are centered around alcohol.

Although it’s a great idea to eliminate alcohol from all family holiday traditions, it is not always possible or ideal for all families. If this is the case for you, you may find yourself wondering how you will get through the holidays without making things more difficult for your loved one. Of course, you don’t want to add to stress that could cause a relapse. And if your loved one is actively addicted, how do you proceed with the season’s festivities without contributing to further estrangement?

How Should Families Deal with Addiction During the Holidays?

Attempting to manage a substance use disorder while keeping the peace during the holidays seems all but impossible. Unfortunately, there’s no simple guide or solution to dealing with addiction during the holidays and how you approach substance abuse issues with your loved ones is a highly individualized process. What works for you and your loved ones may not work for others.

However, whatever your situation may be, there are a few things you can do to navigate the holidays and make them as enjoyable as possible if a loved one is addicted or in recovery.

  • Make goals to socialize. Often, when faced with the challenging circumstances related to addiction, it’s extremely tempting to isolate yourself from others and spend the holiday season hibernating at home away from the peering eyes of friends, neighbors, and family. However, this can do more harm than good. Isolation can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness, leaving you in a very dark place. Instead, fight the temptation to isolate yourself from others and make goals to socialize this holiday season, despite what may be going on with your loved one and his or her substance abuse. Spending time with friends and loved ones and even choosing a few trusted individuals to share your personal life with will help you let go of some stress, find support, and focus on your own health and well-being.
  • Talk to your addicted loved one directly. If your loved one is currently abusing drugs or alcohol, you may be hesitant to invite him or her to your holiday events. You may also worry about tempting someone in recovery if you host a holiday party where alcohol is openly available. Depending on your relationship with the person, you may need to speak directly with him or her to address the issue. This conversation would be a great opportunity to ask your loved one about their drinking plans, share your concerns, and review expectations. You may also want to speak with your co-hosts (if you have any) to discuss how you will address any issues or conflicts, should they arise.
  • Consider hosting a sober event. Whether or not you serve alcohol at family holiday events is completely up to you and may require a family discussion. If you are worried about being insensitive toward someone in recovery, you may decide to host an alcohol-free holiday event. However, if your loved one is actively drinking, you can make plans to minimize the harm by making sure he or she has a ride home, reducing the amount of alcohol available (or not serving it at all), or reducing access to alcohol by only providing it with a meal instead of throughout the entire event.
  • Write out a consequence list. If you are in recovery this holiday season, you may find yourself entertaining thoughts of “just having one drink” or letting loose a little, which can be dangerous. These thoughts may not be impossible to avoid, but to help prevent relapse, write out a consequence list to help you keep things in perspective. To start, think about all the possible negative consequences that could occur if you decide to drink. Examples could be disappointing your spouse, jeopardizing your marriage, or being unable to spend time with your kids due to your physical impairment. When you start feeling tempted, take a look at your list and use it as a motivating tool to resist the temptation to drink.
  • Seek professional help. If you need to enter treatment or you need additional support during the holiday season to deal with an addicted loved one, there is help available. Nar-Anon support groups provide assistance year-round for family members of addicted loved ones and a quick online search may reveal convenient meetings near your home. You may also choose to attend individual therapy sessions for one-on-one support and guidance. If you’re struggling with substance abuse problems, enrolling in detox or rehab during the holidays may be just what you need to start the new year off right.

Addiction and Recovery Services During the Holidays

Having a family member with addiction during the holidays can be difficult, but with the right help and support, you can effectively navigate through the season with limited stress and difficulty. Call (512) 605-2955 today to learn more about addiction treatment services and recovery support for families of addicted individuals at Nova Recovery Center.

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