5 Tips for Supporting People with Addiction During the Holidays

David Schwartz, MD
December 17, 2021

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season are upon us, and while this time is meant to be filled with peace and light-hearted festivities, the truth is that it can be very stressful, especially for someone who is in recovery or actively struggling with a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). 

The holiday stress we all experience can be heightened by trauma and triggers that contribute to a Substance Use Disorder. While some of this is an unavoidable and natural part of healing in recovery, there are a few key ways to help your loved ones in recovery have the best holiday season possible.

1. Ask about possible triggers (if they’re comfortable sharing) and ways you can help them cope should a problem arise.

While it can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, understanding the specific sights, sounds, topics, etc., that may make someone uncomfortable or reopen old wounds can help you prevent emotionally intense situations and ensure that your loved one is able to have the best time possible.

Keep an eye out for these triggers during the festivities. While there is a fine line between being overbearing and being attentive, helping redirect the conversation when an unsafe topic comes up can be a huge help to someone who may otherwise feel alone. Finding out what specific coping skills work best for your loved one beforehand is also important, but follow their lead in the situation if you’re unsure of how best to help.

2. Plan fun, sober activities.  

Avoid creating an environment that is built around alcohol and, instead, focus on planning festivities that everyone can be a part of, like family walks, games, cookie baking, gift exchanges, etc. This will allow everyone to feel equally welcomed and included in the event as a whole.

3. Ensure there are delicious, non-alcoholic beverages available.

This is ultimately beneficial for everyone, in the end. While you may initially do this to help someone you know has a SUD, there are likely many other people who are wanting to avoid alcohol for a variety of reasons. By making festive, enticing mocktails, hot cocoas, and other drinks available, you’re keeping the holidays fun and open for everyone. If you need some ideas, check out our Pinterest board for non-alcoholic options.

4. Make it clear that anyone can leave at any time with no hard feelings.

Part of the stress that surrounds holiday festivities relates directly to the expectations that traditionally come with each event. Even when a situation feels overwhelming to someone, they may stay either to be polite or to avoid creating tension. Telling everyone beforehand that they can come and go as they please will help eliminate this stress and ensure that someone is able to leave if something triggering or uncomfortable arises.

5. Remind your loved one that you are there for them.  

Reaching out to someone with a substance use disorder proactively can remind them that they are not dealing with things alone. Experiencing addiction can be very isolating and the holidays often make this feeling more intense. One of the best ways to help is to just be present and attentive to your loved one’s needs.

The holidays don’t have to be triggering. By making an effort to care for your friends and family in recovery, you’re showing your support in a deeply helpful way. Ultimately, no matter what your loved ones are going through, the best gifts you can give them are your empathy, understanding, and presence. 

At Eleanor Health, our mission is to help anyone concerned about their mental health or affected by addiction live amazing lives.

If you are seeking help with your loved one’s addiction, contact us today or complete our quick contact form below, to speak with an addiction treatment specialist.

If you need help with your substance use disorder, we are here to help you build your confidence and momentum towards the future you want. We provide treatment services for adults with alcohol, opioid, and other substance use disorders. We are currently located in Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, and Washington.

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David Schwartz, MD

Dr. Schwartz is a board-certified psychiatrist and the lead physician for Eleanor Health in New Jersey. He completed his residency in general psychiatry at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus, NJ, and a fellowship at Mount Sinai Health System. At Mount Sinai, he studied and developed expertise in consultation-liaison psychiatry (also termed psychosomatic medicine), an exciting subspecialty of psychiatry that focuses on the care of patients with comorbid psychiatric and general medical conditions.

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