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Holiday Hints When You Love Someone in Recovery

Man, child and Santa Claus
Supporting a loved one in recovery is important to having a happy holiday celebration.

The holidays are fast approaching. While many look forward to lighted trees, Christmas carols, and family gatherings, not everyone is so gung-ho. Chances are if you have a loved one in recovery from Substance Use Disorder, that person might be experiencing anxiety, wariness and sadness as they approach the season.

Here are five holiday hints that will help you make the most of your festivities with your loved one overcoming addiction and ease their tensions.

With Christmas upon may be hosting a holiday gathering or party. Can we make a humble suggestion?

If you are serving alcohol, be sure you have a nice variety of non-alcoholic beverages available too (not just tap water!). And offer them alongside all the other options.

Nearly 1 in 10 Americans is in recovery from alcohol or drugs...and you won't know it by looking at them. Give them plenty of choices that make them feel welcome and included. And NEVER grill someone as to why they aren't drinking (aka "Are you pregnant?") That's just awkward for everyone and puts undo pressure on someone who is trying to make new choices.

Holidays can be stressful on everyone. Navigating tricky family relationships. Increased spending on gifts and food. It can be a recipe for disaster for anyone...all the more so if you are in addiction recovery. That's why people are prone to relapse during the holiday.

If you have a loved one or friend in recovery, ask them how they are doing. Be compassionate toward them and the situations that might trigger them. It's not your job to keep them sober, but you can offer support and care.

Support your loved one to take the necessary steps - including skipping family gatherings, taking breaks, or leaving early - in order to stay on track. Sobriety is worth it.

Remember that addiction is a medical disease. The American Medical Association declared alcoholism a disease in 1956 and Substance Use Disorder a disease in 1987. So as you talk with loved ones, keep in mind that their addiction isn’t a “moral failure” on their part. And yet the disease nature of addiction does not give people a pass on the personal responsibility that is required of them to get healthy and remain sober. It’s both-and. Understanding both the way addiction affects the brain and the need for an addict to accept personal responsibility, change behaviors and right past wrongs will help you be more compassionate toward those in recovery.

Expectations are premeditated resentments. They can set the recovering addict in your life up for failure. Try not to set your hopes on what a meal will look like or how an event will unfold with your newly recovering addict present. Just let things unfold and be present in the moment. It’s important to realize that things will never go back to how they “used to be.” But they can be even better if you allow God to work.

Holidays can be a very lonely time for many of the people living at One Eighty or others in recovery. Many of our residents don’t have family to visit or they choose not to visit them in order to stay on track in their sobriety.

Does that sound extreme? It’s not. Some of our people grow up in families where alcohol and drug use is the central event at family gatherings. Old and young get together to party. Or “home” is where they connected with their friends they used with. So just showing up in that town triggers them to crave the high.

Rather than going back into a situation fraught with challenges and where they are likely to fail, wise people in recovery will often choose a better path, skipping gatherings altogether or only visiting for a limited time. Many times our residents at One Eighty choose to stay on campus and celebrate Christmas with their One Eighty family who are like minded.

Please pray for those in recovery from Substance Use Disorder – for the strength to say “No” to themselves and others. And for the wisdom to use the tools and relationships they’ve been given to deal productively with triggers.

Making good decisions around the holidays might be the hardest challenge to date in your loved one's sobriety; they need the strength of the Lord and loving support to maintain their progress in the face of these new situations.

To learn more about recovery services offered at One Eighty, check out our Develop program. We invite you to actively participate in the recovery journey of a man or woman by UNWRAPPING FREEDOM this Christmas.

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