The holidays can be especially challenging for loved ones new to recovery and their families. So many seasonal triggers and distractions can detour loved ones from their hard-earned recovery journey. Many family members (moms, dads, spouses, children, siblings) attempt to take on personal responsibility for protecting their loved ones to ensure they escape the holidays sober, unscathed and committed on their recovery journey. Although family support is important, the commitment to recovery rests solely on the loved one.
What can family members to do to support a loved one’s recovery, especially during the holidays? Sometimes the best practices 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 a few options as you makes plans for this Christmas:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, use the opportunity to embrace the true reason of the season rather than grit your teeth until the New Year arrives. 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.