Tips for Handling the Holidays With Someone in Recovery


The holiday season is almost here, and for many people, that means mostly positive activities and time with loved ones that they look forward to every year. For the guardians of an adolescent in recovery from alcohol or drug use, the holidays can mean extra stress. We all want our children to enjoy old traditions and feel the holiday joy they did in simpler times, but it’s essential to be vigilant in adapting to the child’s newfound recovery. Parents can formulate a plan for monitoring their child for signs of struggling during the holiday season and approaches to take to help them.

Countering the Indulgence Factor

The holidays often offer a host of temptations for people to enjoy at home and in social situations. Excessive food consumption can disrupt a person’s healthy food intake or diet, leaving them vowing to make up for it in the new year. It becomes more complicated when alcohol is continuously on the menu, and overindulgence is often excused as just part of the season or what everyone else is doing at a party. 

If an adolescent’s family in recovery is hosting a get-together, consider making it an alcohol-free event. Making an exotic punch or gourmet hot chocolate with a variety of toppings available the star of the drink table helps guests appreciate something different when they might otherwise have expected alcoholic beverages to be served. If this isn’t possible, parents should make a point to talk to any guests who are aware of their child’s newfound sobriety and give them a gentle reminder not to flaunt alcohol consumption or offer even ‘just one sip’ to their child. 

Look For Signs of a Pending Relapse

Parents of a child dealing with alcoholism or addiction know it’s essential to be aware of any warning signs of the child being on the brink of relapse. Still, it’s not always easy to determine is how to recognize and interpret the signs. Look for clues that the child is experiencing difficult emotions. They may exhibit symptoms of anger, depression, frustration, or restlessness. Open a dialogue with your child to let them know that the holiday season can make demands on people’s time, and there are false expectations that everyone has to be jolly and upbeat at all times, which isn’t realistic. Let them know they can talk about any emotions they are experiencing that may tempt them to relapse.

Other signs to look for that may signal a child is on the brink of losing their sobriety include a change in their attitudes, such as reacting negatively to most conversations and situations. They might begin to isolate and withdraw from everyday activities or refuse to participate in family or group events. The parents may see signs that their child has reestablished contact with people from their past who were part of their history of drinking or using drugs. The adolescent might begin to express doubts about their addiction or alcoholism. You may see them testing the waters by claiming they can drink or use drugs again without it being a problem. 

Start New Traditions

Part of the holiday season’s joy is taking part in traditional activities that a family has enjoyed for years. Unfortunately, some of these traditions may be reminders of when a child used to engage in drinking or using drugs. While not all traditional activities have to be avoided now that maintaining sobriety is front and center in a family member’s life, beginning new traditions can be quite helpful. Consider doing something that does not center around drinking, such as visiting a local attraction like a park or the zoo. Volunteer options include wrapping presents for children in need, serving a meal to the homeless, or spending a day working with animals in a shelter. Doing things like this honors the holiday spirit without putting temptation on the table.

Reach Out to Treatment Team Members

Remind your child that they are always free to reach out to someone from their treatment team if they feel the holidays are adding too much extra stress. A phone call or online meeting with a therapist between regular visits can help assuage a child’s concerns and give them a boost of support they need. If the child has been to a residential facility, take advantage of any aftercare or alumni programs they offer. If the parent isn’t sure what options they have for that, call the facility and let them know what’s going on. They may offer a telephone or in-person consultation, a group meeting, or other ideas to combat holiday stress and keep the child from giving in to temptation. 

Even when the holiday season brings a lot of joy to a person’s life, it still is not without stress. When the person is an adolescent who is in recovery for alcoholism or drug addiction, it can be challenging to get through a season that focuses so much on indulgence. Family members need to have a good game plan to recognize signs their child is struggling and step in to help them. Sustain Recovery is a program for adolescents who deal with alcohol and drug use and co-occurring mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. We offer residential treatment, including schooling, individual and group therapy, and work with the family to help them continue their newfound recovery after leaving our treatment. Call us today to find out how we can make this and every holiday season one of health and happiness for the entire family! (949) 407-9052.