Holidays have become synonymous for stress, which can make the season extremely sensitive for those in recovery. It’s important to make plans of your own for handling the struggles, but don’t forget about your loved ones.
If someone you know is embarking on the holidays and are trying to protect their sobriety, show your support.
“December has the lowest number of Alcoholics Anonymous anniversaries, and January has the highest,” says Dr. Chapman Sledge, CMO of Cumberland Heights. “Sadly, a lot of the patients who check into our facility for treatment after New Year's are people we recognize. Recovering addicts need their loved ones to recognize their illnesses and respect what they're enduring.”
Sledge says the holiday season introduces numerous risk factors for relapse, including Christmas dinners where wine or champagne is served; holiday office parties where workers are urged to “let their hair down”; and New Year's Eve gatherings where excessive drinking is often encouraged.
“Although the holidays are a time for celebrating, it's important for family members and friends to consider carefully what to do and not do around them,” Sledge says.
The fact is, family members can either help the addict recover or help enable a relapse.
Here are ways Sledge suggests to show your support for your loved one in recovery:
1. Don’t use comments like, “Just a sip of wine at dinner won't hurt,” or “It's a party, have a little fun,” even if they're unintentional. They can slow or destroy an addict's recovery.
2. It's important for family members to understand the nature of their loved ones' struggles and know how to best support them, such as acknowledging their recovery process.
3. Be sensitive to the person's weakness. Minimize the amount of alcohol and prescription drugs in the home.
4. Help them maintain all aspects of recovery. Is your loved one required to attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or other out-patient support groups? Encourage them to go. Better yet, take them yourself. Hold them to a standard of helping themselves through this tough process.
5. Don't overestimate their willpower. Successfully going through recovery requires a great level of strength, but don't push it. Don't test their strength by bringing around alcohol or recreational drugs.
6. Join a family support group. Families of substance abusers have endured a lot, and they need help to overcome the trauma, too. It helps to talk to professionals about your feelings. Join a group like Al-Anon Family Groups and get the support you need. Your strength and understanding will only improve your ability to support your loved one.