Family, Self

How To Support An Addict During The Holidays

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Supporting your Substance User Family/Friend During the Holidays

As the family member of a loved one who has freshly finished alcohol/drug treatment, you may be wondering what you should or shouldn't say or do during a holiday gathering.  It’s a new day for the family dynamics if drinking or drug use was part of the scene at past gatherings.

Letting go of the pain or resentment from the past can be a major hurdle to overcome for family members.

Adopting an attitude of forgiveness does not mean that you are co-signing as OK of the addictive behavior. It’s merely to slowly start to turn over a new leaf and begin to regain the trust with a new set of eyes and increased awareness.

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Adopting this attitude helps you gain a new emotional freedom and not being held in a prison of anger by "faking it".

Here are a few ways on how to support an addict during a family or large gathering:

1. Write them a letter.

Writing a letter or talking to the newly recovering member before a family gathering is a good idea. If you want to talk about the problems of the addiction from the past at the time of the gathering, this should be agreed upon fully with other attendees. 

Avoiding a family argument that would sour the Christmas cheer might be a challenge if this was a pattern in the past, and getting group agreement to keep it positive and ignore any landmines is a good idea.

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2. Decide whether you'll serve alcohol or not.

Whether to serve alcohol at a family function should be agreed upon within the group as well. Treatment teaches that the addict can’t expect the rest of the world to change because they did.

However, staying mindful that early recovery is a sensitive window of time should be considered in this decision.

3. Offer emotional support.

Remember that the substance user/addict is also invested in letting go of the past as well, and they need family emotional support to help heal those wounds. Not all newly treatment discharged folks are already in Step 8, 9, and 10 but receiving an apology for past ills can help move things forward for you all.   

Everyone wants to stop hurting and the power of the group during the holiday can be paramount in changing the course of relationships through shared family recovery.

4. Attend an AI-anon.

Attending Al-anon and other support groups can help provide insight and strategies for coping with the holiday stress.

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Rebecca Bullion is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Certified Intervention Professional, and Certified Trauma Therapist. You can reach her at or her website Addiction in America.