Celebrating the Holiday with Your Newly Sober Loved One
The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is full of excitement and opportunities to reconnect with the people you care the most about. However, the holiday season is also notoriously stressful—and this can be a trigger for people who are sober.
Tips to Help You Support Your Loved One This Holiday Season
At Waypoint Recovery Center, we believe family and friends play an important role in helping our clients build a future free from the burdens of substance abuse. Here, we share some tips to help you support your loved one and make the most of your time together.
Ask Them What They Need
No two people in recovery are exactly alike, so it’s dangerous to make assumptions about what your loved one is most concerned about during this time. Some newly sober people are worried about being the only one not drinking at a party, while others are most worried about the stress of traveling or dealing with family members who aren’t entirely supportive of the changes they’ve been making. Financial struggles or legal problems from past addiction-related behavior may also be weighing heavily on their mind.
As you’re making your holiday plans, have an honest conversation with your loved one about their needs and what you can do to make the holidays more comfortable. Talking about specific problem areas ahead of time can put both your minds at ease.
Minimize Opportunities for Conflict
If you’re the host, there are a few easy steps you can take to increase your odds of a calm and enjoyable holiday celebration that won’t put your loved one’s recovery at risk.
- Pare down your guest list. Large gatherings can be stressful, so it’s best to keep your guest limited only to close friends and family until your loved one is more established in their sobriety.
- Set firm boundaries. Often, people in recovery are hesitant to speak up when a situation is making them uncomfortable. They may be worried about drawing attention to themselves or not want to cause additional stress. You can help by letting your guests know ahead of time if there are topics that are off-limits and speaking up if anyone’s actions are putting your loved one’s recovery at risk.
- Keep your guests busy. Idle time creates additional opportunities for tensions to flare, so consider planning activities that will keep everyone busy. Christmas-themed craft projects, board games, jigsaw puzzles, and movie marathons are appropriate for guests of all ages. If the weather permits, outdoor activities are also great options during the holiday season.
- Ditch the booze altogether. If other guests are on board, consider making your celebration a sober event. This eliminates a source of temptation for your loved one in recovery, but it also prevents alcohol from inflaming tensions between others who might get too rowdy, reckless, or loose-lipped after a few drinks.
- Respect personal space. Having too many people in close quarters can cause tempers to flare. If you normally host guests overnight and you’re worried about a spouse or live-in partner, tactfully suggest that your guests check into a hotel or make other arrangements for this year’s event.
Encourage Them to Make Time for Self-Care, Especially During the Holiday Season
With so much to do and so many places to go, a lot of people neglect their self-care through the holiday season. This can be particularly problematic for people in recovery since these wellness-focused lifestyle habits are crucial to managing cravings and coping with their personal addiction triggers.
For your loved one in recovery, self-care includes:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating balanced meals
- Exercising regularly
- Making time for stress-relieving hobbies
- Attending recovery-related appointments
- Checking in with their sponsor and 12-Step group
Create New Traditions
If your loved one has decided to forgo certain activities that might be triggering, this is the perfect opportunity to add new traditions to your holiday routine. Whether you decide to host a cookie exchange, decorate your tree with festive handmade ornaments, go caroling throughout the neighborhood, or make care packages for those in need, you’ll be making new memories that prove it’s perfectly possible to enjoy the holidays without drugs and alcohol.
Give a Gift That Focuses on Their Bright Future
Your loved one has made great strides in their journey of self-improvement. You can let them know that you’re proud of what they’ve accomplished by choosing a gift that focuses on the better days that are ahead. Supplies for a hobby they’ve recently discovered are a wonderful choice, whether your loved one is passionate about art, music, cooking, or gardening. Experience-gifts that you can share together, such as tickets to a concert, play, or sporting event, are also a great option to consider—especially when they are accompanied by a heartfelt letter that expresses how much you care about your loved one’s recovery and are looking forward to spending time together.