What can family members to do to support a loved one’s recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol, especially during the holidays? With so many seasonal triggers and distractions, the holiday season can be especially challenging for loved ones new to sobriety and their families. Many family members attempt to take on personal responsibility for protecting their loved ones to ensure they make it through the holidays sober and committed to their recovery journey.

However, although addiction is a family disease and family support is important to a healthy recovery program, it is important for family members to understand that the commitment to recovery rests solely on the loved one.

Still, there are steps that family members can take to create a safe, healthy space for loved ones in recovery to celebrate the season.

Keep in mind that sometimes the best practices for supporting your loved one in recovery can be counterintuitive. That is why seeking treatment and care for yourself can often be the most beneficial way to help your loved one and the entire family. In the meantime, consider these five best practices as you make plans for this Christmas:

1. Keep It Simple

Don’t make overtly “special arrangements,” but be mindful of your loved ones in recovery as you make your holiday plans. Value their feedback and respect that some holiday events may be unappealing to them, especially the first time. Be considerate of your loved one’s schedule, such as their AA meetings or recovery group events and plan your family gatherings accordingly. In addition, when making plans, focus on the smaller, intimate family customs and skip the more extravagant activities. This will relieve some pressure and generate more meaningful experiences for the family reconnect and renew.

2. Communicate

Engage your loved one in recovery in the planning process. The worst approach is to go through the holidays with your loved one positioned as the elephant in the room. Have an open discussion about their needs and expectations to help avoid surprises and unnecessary triggers or conflicts. More authentic and meaningful family experiences could evolve from the involvement of your loved one. Recovery can often inspire new perspectives and ideas that benefit everyone.

3. Embrace Peace

The holidays naturally elevate our emotions at almost every level. Even when a loved one finds recovery, family members can trigger relapse by exhibiting past fears, losing patience with the process and even applying an abundance of pressure and suspicion. Avoid this escalation. Inform and educate the family about addiction, treatment and recovery. Removing stigma can prevent such behaviors. Set the tone for your holiday season by embracing peace. Take necessary steps to create a lighter, peaceful environment that will benefit everyone and foster a happy, healthy experience.

4. Offer Space

Your loved one may want to skip your annual neighborhood gathering or the big family dinner. Maybe they need a few minutes of privacy to meditate or call their sponsor. Do not take any such requests personal. These are necessary and normal actions in their recovery. Provide a designated space for loved ones to retreat to when needed.

5. Get Creative

Introduce new traditions that relieve seasonal pressures and better engage the family. Recovery is an opportunity to refresh holiday planning with intentional planning that leaves an impact beyond the season. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Challenge the family to exchange handmade gifts or even deliver their gifts to a family in need. You can reduce financial stress and add deeper meaning to the spirit of giving. Schedule a brainstorm session and invite your loved one in recovery to be a part of the planning.

This Christmas, engage your loved one in recovery to help develop new traditions and opportunities that bring the family together, strengthen relationships, spread holiday cheer and produce meaningful memories that will last a lifetime.

Sober Holiday Resources

For people in recovery from addiction and for those ready to celebrate the holiday safely and soberly, having a plan in place to manage potential triggers to consume drugs and alcohol can help you enjoy the holidays in a safe, healthy way. 

If you or someone you know may have a problem with alcohol or other drugs, the addiction experts at Valley Hope can provide a free level of care screening to determine if you require clinical treatment. Because addiction remains a public health crisis in America, Valley Hope provides an essential public health service and continues to welcome new patients at each of our 19 treatment centers with medical detox services, residential treatment, online outpatient treatment and virtual recovery support programs.

We know that the dangers of addiction dramatically increase in the face of heightened anxiety, stress and isolation. That’s why our team of treatment experts stand ready to provide help and healing for alcohol misuse in a safe, compassionate environment.

For immediate help 24/7, call the Valley Hope Patient Access Center at (800) 544-5101.

With extensive precautions in place, Valley Hope is continuously working with public health officials, staff, communities and partners to ensure safety and remain open to new patients.

Learn more:

Help 24/7: (800) 544-5101

Impact of COVID-19 on People with SUD

CDC Resources

Valley Hope is Expanding Access to Treatment and Recovery Support

Recovery Resources