10 Strategies to Getting Through the Holidays for Families and Those in Recovery
The holidays are a magical time of year filled with laughter and joy. However, for families and clients in early recovery the holidays can be difficult. The good news is that families and their loved ones can get through the holidays together. Here are some tips that may be helpful for you and loved one when navigating the holidays.
Manage your stress
The holidays can be a stressful time of year. Therefore, managing your stress levels is important. Nutrition and physical activity are important to keeping stress levels at a minimum. While indulging yourself with the delicious food and beverages unique to this time of year, do not neglect your nutrition. Be intentional about working fruits and greens into your day. Remember not to neglect your exercise. It is easy to put this aside during this time.
Make it intimate or skip it all together
Think about whether you want to host a holiday gathering if your family is in early recovery. If you would like to host an event, consider making it intimate with only close family and friends. These persons may already be familiar with your family’s challenges, so you do not have to explain, for instance, not having alcohol available. On the other hand, this may be the opportunity to share what your family has experienced thus creating the space for them to support you.
Host an alcohol-free event
Recovery presents an opportunity to establish a new family tradition. Consider hosting an alcohol-free event to create a safe environment for your loved one to celebrate with you and the family. Make sure to inform family and friends ahead of time. Specifying this ahead of time gives invitees the opportunity to opt out or ensure they do bring alcoholic beverages and/or alcohol-based dishes.
Bring your own drink
Take your non-alcoholic drink to events to ensure that you have an alternative option. Keeping a drink in your hand also wards off offers to have a drink. Also, many other individuals are in recovery. Whether or not your loved is visiting for the holidays you may want to consider offering non-alcoholic option.
Practice your response
Remember, you do not need to give anyone an explanation why you are not drinking and or hosting a sober event. However, you may want to have a response anyway. Responses often reflect various amounts of disclosure. Get clear with how much you are willing to share and with whom, as this clarity will guide your response. Some suggestions for responses if offered a drink are “I’m in recovery,” “I’m trying to get healthier” and “I have an early day at work tomorrow.” If you are hosting a sober event for the first-time simply stating “I’ve decided to establish a new family tradition” is good enough. Deliver these responses in clear firm tone with direct eye contact. This posture sends a clear message. If the individual insists on continuing the discussion just repeat your message again adding “Let’s not talk about this anymore. Let’s focus on enjoying the time.”
If you decide to attend an event with alcohol, consider offering to assist the host for the evening. Keeping busy is great way to distract yourself. Families can get their loved ones involved in the planning and hosting of family events offering a feeling of “being a part of” and a welcome escape from the anxiety they may be experiencing.
Go to a meeting
A 12 step meeting or support group is a timeless and proven means through which you can support yourself throughout the holidays. Many support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Al-Anon, Narcotics Anonymous and Nar-Anon for instance host additional meetings to ensure help is accessible for those in recovery and their families.
Take a support person
Taking a sober support with you can offer additional accountability and motivation. As a family member working an active program, you may consider having a support person to help you maintain appropriate boundaries and manage your anxiety when interacting with loved ones.
Remind yourself of the reason for the season
Taking time to embrace the spirit of the holidays can help to keep you grounded and centered when things become stressful. The spirit of giving, joy, peace and good will toward to all permeates the air. Intentionally embracing these values helps to maintain a sense of peace and serenity.
Stay focused on the bigger picture
If your loved one is in treatment, remind them of how proud you are of them for getting help. Acknowledge the difficulty of being in treatment during the holidays but be sure to reinforce they are taking the necessary steps to create a lifetime of positive holiday memories. It is typical for treatment centers to make this time of year special for clients so encourage your loved one to open their hearts and embrace the love and caring offered by staff.
Lystra Lewis LMFT MCAP, Family Therapist at Destination Hope