Holidays are stressful times for people living with addiction disorders. Social pressure to drink at parties increases, celebrations interfere with daily routines and stress levels rise. Family members can help loved ones avoid alcohol or drug use and still enjoy the holidays.
HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired, all of which increase the temptation to drink or abuse substances. Food is a central part of many holidays, so hunger can be easily avoided. Make sure, however, your loved one eats healthy food, rather than overindulging on sweet or salty snacks. Overindulging in one area could tempt him or her to overindulge in others, such as to drink.
Depending on your family dynamic, anger is more difficult to control over the holidays. If possible, lay some ground rules for family members to reduce the possibility of arguments; banning discussions on hot-button or personal topics can help keep everyone calm.
Many recovering addicts feel alone during the holidays. Try to include your loved one in events and encourage him or her to reach out to friends and support groups on important holidays. As for fatigue and getting tired, limiting family gatherings to a specific length helps, as does checking to make sure your loved one isn’t trying to do too much (you can’t go Christmas shopping all day, spend all night watching holiday movies and put in a full day at work without consequences).
Parties and social gatherings are a common part of holidays, especially major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve. Consider making family gatherings alcohol-free to avoid any risk of relapse over the evening. If you can’t ban alcohol, make sure you offer plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives for your loved one.
Parties outside the home are more risky, as you can’t control whether or not alcohol will be available. Hosts often feel obligated to press drinks onto guests, adding social pressure to the temptation to drink. Try to avoid parties where you know there’ll be heavy drinking.
If you do attend parties with alcohol, arrive late and leave early. Just put in an appearance to fulfill your social obligations. Think of “exit strategies” — excuses to leave parties early — in advance. If your loved one is amenable, you could devise a code word to use if he or she feels under pressure and needs to leave.
Talking to Family Members
If your loved one hasn’t confronted his or her disorder yet, the holidays may provide the opportunity to talk about the problem. If he or she opens up to you, listen without being judgmental. Let your loved one know you’re here for them and suggest addiction recovery programs.
The New Year offers possibilities to talk to people struggling with substance abuse. People often make resolutions to start the New Year, and for many addicts, quitting is an important resolution. If your loved one makes such as resolution privately, it’s easy to break. Consider starting a tradition where family members tell each other their resolutions and offer to help each other achieve their goals. A caring, supportive environment may encourage someone to open up about his or her problems.
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