The holidays can be a challenge for someone who is recovering from substance misuse. Stress levels and mental health struggles can shoot up during the holiday season.  Holiday parties can feature copious amounts of alcohol and other substances. How can you support a family member who is in recovery this holiday season? The staff at the Healthy365 Connection Center has some simple suggestions for people who want to be loving and compassionate this holiday season.

Ask your loved one if they want to ride together to the event.

Walking into an event alone can be daunting. Sharing a ride means you’re enjoying extra strength in numbers when you make your entrance. It also gives you the opportunity to communicate privately with your loved one before an event. Discuss how long you want to stay at the event and commit to keeping an eye on each other during the festivities.

Rely on active listening during a conversation and reflecting on what you heard.

If your loved one trusts you enough to talk about their feelings and fears over the holiday season, consider that a compliment. Active listening is a skill that goes beyond hearing what the other person is saying. It involves strong eye contact, being aware of non-verbal cues and listening to understand, rather than to respond. Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions like “What concerns do you have about tonight’s event?” or “What do you think is your best strategy for handling pressure to drink alcohol at parties like the one we’re attending?” Listen and reflect on what you hear. Confirm that you understand what the other person is saying. You may want to say something like, “I hear you saying that you’re worried about cousin Pete and his comments about your non-alcoholic drink choices. How can I help?”

Consider hosting a sober event.

Holiday gathering don’t have to involve free-flowing alcohol or other substances. If you want to support your loved one in recovery during the holidays, consider hosting a sober event. Plan on popcorn, movies, board games, appetizers and sparkling grape juice for the midnight toast. Invite others who understand your motives and will be supportive as well. Or invite your loved one to dinner and a movie, where you won’t be surrounded by revelers.

Encourage your loved one to write out their boundaries and positive coping skills prior to the event.

Sobriety risk factors are personal. One person in recovery may need to avoid any events that feature alcohol and other substances, while another feels comfortable at those events as long as they don’t feel pressure to imbibe as well. Everyone has a personal right to their emotions and individual boundaries. Writing down coping skills helps commit them to memory and reinforces their validity.

Ask your loved one how you can support them.

This is perhaps the most important thing you can do for a loved one. Instead of offering your own list of solutions, ask them what they would like you to do. Maybe they don’t want you to ban alcohol from your holiday party, but they would appreciate some fun non-alcoholic alternatives like the ones featured here. Perhaps they want help creating an escape strategy that lets them graciously leave if they become uncomfortable during the holiday celebrations. Or, maybe they simply want to be treated like any other guest. There are no right answers, only individual answers for the person you are supporting.

The holidays can be hard for people who are in recovery. You are not alone. If you or your loved one feel like you are needing some extra support over the holidays, call Healthy365 at 317-468-4231.