Supporting a Loved One’s Recovery During the Holidays

by Tom Bannard, CADC, MBA

As Thanksgiving approaches, we in the recovery community have so much to be grateful for, but this season can also be challenging for many in recovery and their families. Twelve years ago, my family choose to cancel their holiday celebrations to visit me in a rehab facility. I am so grateful they chose to fight my disease with love and support.

Many of our Rams in Recovery and others in the Recovery Community will be celebrating their first or second holiday season as people in recovery which presents unique challenges and opportunities.

For some, connecting to family in a deeper way than ever holds a special value. For others, the strain of challenging relationships, unhealed wounds, and loneliness makes this time harder than other times of year.

Here are a few thoughts about how we can support our loved one’s recovery during this time:

  1. Minimize or eliminate serving alcohol during family events. If that is not possible, look for ways for the bar to not be the center of attention.
  2. Choose not to drink in solidarity with your loved one.
  3. Make sure your loved one has an easy way out of family events that involve alcohol. If they drive, make sure they have access to a vehicle, so they can leave if they need to. If they do not drive, let them know that they just have to give the word and you will take them home, or to a meeting. (Almost all cities and towns have marathon meetings around the holidays, in Richmond call 804-355-1212 for more information).
  4. Let them know that you know that their recovery is more important than any single family gathering. Let them know it is ok for them to leave.
  5. Express your gratitude and appreciation for their recovery journey.
    Ask them to help you with preparations, clean up etc. Sometimes getting out of our own heads is a great relief.
  6. Go to a meeting with them or volunteer with them during the holiday if they are willing. This can often be a powerful experience for both of you. In Richmond, there is an open Thanksgiving day and Christmas day gratitude meeting at the Healing Place (700 Dinwiddie Ave.) at 9am. It is a powerful way to start those days.

I hope this is helpful. Thank you again for your commitment to making Richmond a Recovery Ready city.

Tom is Administrative Director for COBE and Program Coordinator for Rams in Recovery at Virginia Commonwealth University, and a person in long term recovery.  He is also Co-Founder of the Family Education Program, a free, weekly, education focused group for family members of people struggling with substance use disorders. The group meets Thursday Nights at 6:30 at Northstar Community, 563 Southlake Blvd and Mondays at VCU Motivate Clinic, 5:30-6:30pm, 501 N. 2nd Street, Richmond

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5 thoughts on “Supporting a Loved One’s Recovery During the Holidays”

  1. Tom,
    What an outstanding article. Your suggestions are all correct, not to mention the timeliness of them.
    I lost my son to the disease of addiction in 2014. I was and am very active in the Families Anonymous (FA) program, which is for families and friends of people with a substance abuse disorder. If I can be of help by speaking to a group of addicts regarding how their addiction affects the families please get in touch with me. The recovering addict need to know how the addiction has affected the entire family from a families perspective.
    Thank you and keep up the good work.
    Braxton Collier

    1. Thanks Braxton. I am so sorry for your loss and grateful for your service in FA. It is so important for families to have a place to go. Take good care,
      Tom

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