Navigating Family Dynamics and Addictive Substances During the Holidays

Navigating Family Dynamics and Addictive Substances During the Holidays

Family, holidays, and recovery can be a difficult mix. Holiday stress is real and comes in many forms. The high emotions and sometimes relational complications may create stress. Since holidays are also times when substance use is more prevalent, the mix can produce a perfect storm for people in recovery. To enjoy the presence of family and friends while maintaining your mental health, prepare yourself now for how to cope with stress later.

Riding the Holiday Emotions

You may begin to get holiday letters from family and friends who share their highlights from the year. Perhaps a family reunion is coming up around Christmas that makes you cringe to think about, especially in terms of what could happen with certain people. Holiday parties and family gatherings are also times when people check in with you. You may have to deal with the judgment of others.

Even for people with no health concerns, the high frequency of social interaction during the holiday season may induce positive and negative emotions. If you are in recovery, prepare for the emotional tides and protect yourself from becoming overwhelmed.

Some people in recovery tend to withdraw during the holiday season. However, social isolation in the name of protecting your energy is not healthy either. You must find a balance between enjoying others’ company and healthily managing the stress that comes with it. Additionally, for a family to become recovery-supportive, they should be mindful of the varied ways their loved one in recovery may find this time stressful and do what they can to mitigate it.

Reducing the Risk of Holiday Stress

Holidays are a high time when people in American society put pressure on each other to live up to certain lifestyles or commitments. Unfortunately, most of us have experienced difficulties throughout the past years, especially due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A recovery-supportive family should not shy away from sharing these hardships with each other before celebrating wins.

Supportive family members must consider your vulnerabilities in recovery during the holiday season. They can help limit the frequency of social gatherings and be more selective about who to gather with. In essence, they should support your recovery so that you do not feel alone. On the flip side, they should also consider who you may need to avoid socializing with to stay healthy.

Creating a Holiday Relapse Prevention Plan

If you plan for potential triggers around family and friends, you will be more prepared to deal with the stress. You may begin each day with a proactive plan to manage stress and prevent relapse. Review the social activities for the day or week and list potential triggers, including the presence of substances and difficult family dynamics.

Meanwhile, create another list of resources in your support system for this season. For example, do not skip peer group meetings, even when they overlap with something else on your social calendar. Recovery groups are where you can share and offload some emotional stress during the holidays. In addition, reach out to supportive family members and friends to be your sobriety accountability partners during the holidays.

Holidays are a good time to connect with your sober contacts. Invite your family to a supportive sober event so that you get some emotional balance and connect one world with the other. Socializing with recovery-supportive friends can also distract you from negative emotional experiences with difficult family situations.

Practicing Self-Care During the Holidays

Because family gatherings and holidays are recipes for triggers, try to become more proactive in self-care. Remember: no matter what, you do not need to resort to alcohol or drugs to make it through this holiday season. There are many ways you can become more prepared, so you use healthy coping techniques rather than return to substance use.

First, set boundaries for holiday interactions. Maybe you need to rehearse how to decline alcohol or drugs. Prepare answers to inquiries about your recovery process. When you perceive a difficult family member causing strife, prepare yourself with a way to excuse yourself from that gathering.

Second, make realistic goals for building relationships during the holidays. For example, say you are thinking of mending family conflict during this time; allow yourself to step back when things are not working. Build more emotional awareness about when it is time to stop trying so hard. Trauma in family relationships runs deep and usually cannot be fixed by one family gathering.

Last but not least, seek professional help if the holidays are bringing too much stress and triggers. Mental health professionals and many support groups provide assistance year-round. They understand why holidays may be when people in recovery need more help. Never cope with relapses alone during holidays. 

Holidays can be a challenging time for recovering individuals. Family reunions, social events, and relationship tensions may increase stress levels and the potential for relapse. People who are prone to withdrawing are also more reluctant to seek professional help. To sail through this holiday season with your sobriety intact, be prepared with coping skills and other support. Laguna Shores Recovery offers year-round support and care. Our mental health professionals and recovery experts are always on call to support you and your family in times of need. You do not need to struggle alone. Call us today at 866-934-5276 for a consultation. You can maintain your recovery during the holidays if you are well-supported by health professionals.