Family reunions, presents, and plenty of parties dot the holiday season calendar. Even though this time of year comes with warmth and togetherness, it's also stressful-especially when addiction affects your family. If your spouse, child, or other close family member is recently in recovery, take a look at what you need to know about managing holiday expectations and activities.
Expectations of total happiness and holiday glee often go unmet. While a family gathering does provide an opportunity to show support, love, and caring for the addict, that doesn't mean the person in recovery will feel the same way.
Addiction comes with a complex set of emotions, based on current, past, and future experiences and expectations. If the alcoholic in recovery has had previous conflicts with family members or feels that they aren't welcome (based on previous holiday incidents), they may not share in the sense of holiday happiness.
Depending on where your loved one is in their recovery, they may feel physically, psychologically, or emotionally spent. This can manifest a negative demeanor or an unpleasant emotional state. While empathy and understanding won't solve all the recovering alcoholic's problems, they can go a long way to smooth the situation and make the holidays manageable for everyone.
Is this new territory for you? Don't add stress to an already challenging situation by attempting to go it alone. Your loved one has a team behind them, helping them through the recovery process. Rely on their team to help you-as you help them.
Creating a comfortable environment is one way to set reasonable expectations for the entire family. Initiate a conversation with your loved one, asking what will help them to succeed during the holiday time. While it's tempting to bring the entire family in to the discussion, this can create an uncomfortable situation. A well-meaning group is still a group. Feeling like they're in the spotlight may make the recovering addict feel like they're on trial.
A champagne toast is a temptation that the recovering substance abuser doesn't need during an already stressful situation. The first holiday season back with the family adds the type of pressure that the alcoholic previously covered up by using.
Again, talk to your loved one about what they are (and aren't) comfortable with. Avoid assuming they want the rest of the family to abstain too. Instead, consider creating a balance that keeps temptations at a minimum. You can do this by doing the following things:
- Not cooking with alcohol. Even though alcohol burns off during the cooking process, it leaves behind a distinct taste. This can trigger a recovering addict, making it more challenging to stay sober.
- Avoiding alcohol-laced treats. Cordials and other holiday-time treats often have an alcoholflavored filling. Avoid accidentally surprising the alcoholic in recovery with these strong flavors by choosing other chocolate or candy options.
- Providing mocktail options. Mocktails are cocktails minus the alcohol. These virgin drinks are growing in popularity, making it easy to find recipes on blogs or other recipe-related websites.
- Toasting with juice. A non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice or cider is an easy alternative to champagne or wine for celebratory toasts. Talk to your loved one first, asking if a grape-like taste is acceptable.
While removing every possible trigger or temptation isn't always possible, holiday celebrations don't have to revolve around alcohol. Instead of an open bar area or bottles of wine left out on the dining table, opt for individual drink service.
Do you have a loved one with a substance abuse problem? Are you unsure how to best help them during the recovery process? Contact Macomb Medical Clinic, P.C., for more information.