Keeping those in addiction recovery in mind during holidays

For some, eggnog, buttered rum and other alcohol-spiked drinks are as much a part of the holidays as presents under the tree.

But what happens when there’s a family member or guest who is in addiction recovery?

The holidays can be stressful for just about everyone, but they can be especially tough for people in recovery and their families, said Vicki Nejtek, PhD, Associate Professor of Family Medicine.

But there are ways to reduce the stress of Christmas festivities and make the holiday celebrations more enjoyable for everyone. Here are some evidence-based suggestions from Dr. Nejtek:  

  • Pay attention to food and beverage choices. You wouldn’t invite people with diabetes over and serve only sugary treats. Make sure you have non-alcoholic choices available at parties.
  • Ask those in recovery how they feel about being around others who may drink alcohol at your celebration. Don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend it’s not an issue. Have a private conversation with the person, well in advance of any gatherings.
  • Respect the person’s needs.  If they believe that seeing others drinking will be detrimental to their recovery, then be understanding about their decision not to attend. Try to make arrangements to celebrate with them in a smaller group of guests in a setting where addictive substances won’t be used.
  • Don’t be a watchdog. Pressuring someone to stay sober or watching them every minute isn’t helpful. 
  • Acknowledge the individual’s success.  Tell them how proud you are that they have maintained their sobriety.  
  • Don’t dwell on Christmases past.  Focus instead on what a joy the person is to be around now.

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