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How to Help Relatives Struggling With Addiction During the Holidays


As the weather begins to cool, we start digging in the back of our closets to dust off our winter coats, and we know that the holidays will shortly be on the horizon. While some of us see this as our favorite time of year, others find it dreadful and lonely. As we rejoice and start to relax, others struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol view it as a trying time. Relapses during the holidays are much more frequent and are estimated to spike as much as 150 percent.

Some of the most common reasons for the jump in figures include:

  • Gift stress and financial strain
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Holiday blues

Due to the stress, family members struggling with addiction may drive themselves to the nearest coping mechanism. As with all physical and mental health issues, awareness and education are the most potent first lines of defense. It’s crucial to shed light on these issues and how to help relatives struggling with addiction during the holidays. By combating the problem early on, it can stave off relapse. 

Strategies for Managing the Holidays

First and foremost, your number one strategy is to be prepared. Since most relatives are in tune with the issues that may arise within their family unit, you shouldn’t just hope for the best. Suppose you know the family might be asking many questions that put the person battling addiction on the spot. In that case, you should practice appropriate answers, so they don’t feel obligated to discuss anything they’re uncomfortable with. If your family is focused on achievements or bring up stories that bring shame, help rehearse their actions. 

Another way you can help a relative with addiction during the holidays is by role-playing. Families may be intrusive and want to know what’s going on in their life, so you should try out different answers to see how they feel as they’re said out loud. It won’t be the same as you’ll practice, but preparation goes a long way to battle the stress the body and brain will endure.


Accepting the Situation

The holidays are going to happen, and if your relatives are sober, they’re likely to be around. It’s essential to focus on the things they can’t accept. Otherwise, it could set them up for an emotional disaster. You should help your relatives to use these times to inspire growth, change, and become better aware. However, proceed with caution as these could cause further stress with unrealistic expectations. 

Choose Self-Care

Everyone in the family will benefit from realistic expectations. If you know that your relative is overwhelmed by stress this holiday season, you should encourage them to limit their holiday activities or cut back on certain responsibilities. Self-care is vital, and sitting out a couple of Christmas or New Year’s parties for an AA or NA meeting should be encouraged. 

Teach Your Relatives to Accept Who They Are

You are who you are, and you can’t change that. Addiction is a disease that can only be managed, and by accepting this, it can help them appreciate their situation more. Sobriety is not easy to come by, and despite the challenges they face, they’ve come a long way. Remind them of this when they’re feeling down, and help them practice love and grace toward themselves. 

Reach Out For Help

As was mentioned above, addiction is a disease with no cure. With that said, relapse rates are high when you remove the holidays from the equation. You can help your relatives by reminding them to reach out for help. Teach them that strength can be measured by their willingness to seek help and admit they’re not doing well. These situations shouldn’t be hidden, and the faster you accept there’s a problem, the lower the chances are you’ll relapse around the holiday season. 


Alyssa Harbina




1901 West Cypress Creek Rd Suite 600
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309

(844) 899-5777
[email protected]

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