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Navigating the Holidays with an Addicted Loved One

Navigating the Holidays with an Addicted Loved One

You can take some practical steps to have a good time, decrease stress and offer valuable help to your addicted loved one

The holidays are a perfect opportunity to relax and spend quality time with friends and family. However, despite the media’s portrayals of perfect families who enjoy fruitful holidays, some families must work to navigate the holidays with an addicted loved one while also keeping a positive attitude. When so many family members are in such close quarters, it can be hard to deny that an addiction is going on, so an elevated stress level makes it even more difficult to cope.

There is no denying that family addiction has a direct and ongoing impact upon the stability of the household, but such stress is especially hard to deal with in times when everyone is supposed to be together most of the time. It is almost impossible to keep normal routines, so household members often close their eyes or deny the problems that go on. Nonetheless, you can take some practical steps to have a good time, decrease stress and offer valuable help to your addicted loved one.

Therapy for Each Household Member

Many families in this same exact spot have seen benefits from seeking professional help before the holidays arrive. In previous years, some people have seen how addiction made the holidays particularly difficult, so they opted for the advice of a family counselor. In such therapy sessions, participants learn of specific suggestions to analyze situations well.

Although therapy sessions for the addict would be ideal, this option is sometimes impossible, or she might be unwilling to accept help if she denies her condition. However, everyone else in the family can still receive individual therapy to express her feelings and obtain support. This therapy is effective, because most individuals are uncertain how to handle certain situations, and they might need safe environment to express fear, anger and concerns. Take this option seriously if there are young ones in the household1.

Talk Openly About What Is Going On

Living with an addict often means going through situations and events that are both distressing and traumatic. Especially if there are kids in the family, it is vital that open communication is available for all of those who are trying to cope with this kind of environment. Family and close friends of the addict should discourage denial and disconnection. Processing pain and expressing feelings are important to avoid anxiety disorders in the future, as cumulative trauma is a real danger when an addict’s loved ones develop dysfunctional coping strategies characterized by isolation and anger2.

To avoid this potential danger, remain readily available to conversations between yourself and the addict’s other relatives. You can even prepare for this step in advance of the holiday season by talking about possible scenarios and discussing how everyone can cooperate. With help, the entire family can deal with problems in the most effective and healthiest manner.

Helping Your Loved One Avoid a Relapse

Someone you care about may want to overcome addiction, but he may find it difficult to deal with cravings and triggers. The holiday season can be stressful for several reasons, so people may want to do as much as possible to help a loved one; to that end, know that addictive behavior is often driven by boredom and shame. Some families believe that keeping the addict out of the celebration is the best way to keep stress low, but this view is errant. The reality is that addicts rely on strong and stable groups of family and friends to avoid loneliness and isolation, so they will feel more inclined to accept help if they see that others are interested in their wellbeing. People may thrive in recovery if they know that other people will support their sobriety efforts3.

Offer the Possibility of Recovery

Although showing support and kindness to an addict can have many benefits, more might be needed if you want her to stop abusing drugs and recover. In fact, holding an intervention has been the starting point for many families who now enjoy a drug-free life. Despite what is shown in the media, interventions are more than a simple confrontation of stress and drama: there are different kinds of interventions, and some of them do not even involve the addict in the first stages of the recovery process. Also, most interventionists are willing to work with the family during the treatment phase, and they may even offer individual counseling for different situations4.

You might decide that, before or after the holidays, you want to hold an intervention. Regardless of when you think is the best time, you can progress greatly right now by researching how interventions work and by increasing your knowledge of both addiction and recovery. An excellent way to accomplish these tasks is to rely on professional advice.

Professional Help for Addiction Recovery

Feel free to call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline right now for free advice about counseling, mental illness, substance abuse, addiction and recovery. Our admissions coordinators will gladly help you develop a recovery plan that includes the best resources for the best values. Now is an excellent time to call.


1 https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/family-disease.“Family Disease” (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 25 July 2015). Retrieved 11/14/2014.

2 http://www.nacoa.org/pdfs/The%20Set%20Up%20for%20Social%20Work%20Curriculum.pdf. “Living With Addiction” (Tian Dayton MA, PhD, TEP, National Association for Children of Alcoholics). Retrieved 11/14/2014.

3 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-addiction/201012/addiction-during-the-holidays-recovered-or-not-its-important-be. “Addiction during the holidays: Recovered or not, it’s important to be prepared” (Adi Jaffe Ph.D., Psychology Today, 23 December 2010). Retrieved 11/14/2014.

4 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/intervention/art-20047451. “Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction” (Mayo Clinic, 26 September 2014). Retrieved 11/14/2014.

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