While many may look forward to the holidays, this time of year can be a difficult and trying time for those that struggle with addiction and sobriety. That is why it’s crucial to find ways that those struggling with addiction and sobriety, and loved ones, can enjoy the holidays without the added stressors, triggers and emotions that the holidays bring.
Dr. Teralyn Sell, Psychotherapist and Brain Health Expert, highlights the struggles that those battling addiction and sobriety may face during the holidays and how loved ones can create a safe, encouraging and fun time of celebration during this time.
“A common misperception is that the holidays will not be fun if you cannot participate in drinking. If someone in your family is struggling with addiction or is in early recovery, make sure you plan for different kinds of fun that do not involve drinking. If alcohol is a problem for a family member or loved one, make the decision to not have alcohol at your celebration. Worry more about the person who is struggling than the other people who just want to drink. Be considerate and respectful of the person who is struggling by not creating an environment that is triggering.”
Here are Dr. Teralyn Sell’s top 3 tips for creating an addiction and sobriety friendly holiday celebration:
TIP #1: Have healthy snacks available
Make sure that you have a lot of healthy snacks that include fruits, vegetables and protein available. If you only have sugary treats available it is more likely that reactive hypoglycemia could take place. This is the steep rise and sharp fall of blood sugar. When this happens it shuts off your thinking brain and causes you to lose your recovery skills. It is also when fights break out. Reactive hypoglycemia is said to be the number one predictor of relapse.
TIP #2: Opt for some fun mocktails instead
There are some really cool elixirs available that are not alcoholic but still appeal to your taste buds. Create a signature beverage at your celebration that doesn’t involve alcohol and have plenty of alternative beverages available at all times.
Tip #3: Respect your loved one’s boundaries
Unfortunately, peer pressure even exists within families. Let’s just have ‘one drink’ or ‘come on, are you a lightweight now’ are some examples. Please don’t call the person out as if not having an alcoholic beverage is strange or different. Instead, respect their boundaries by offering them something different without drawing attention to their struggles. If you hear a family member pressuring your loved one, don’t be afraid to step in and support your loved one.
Tip for Loved Ones:
My biggest tip to support a family member is to talk with them before the holiday celebration. Help them create a solid plan that recognizes when the person is feeling emotionally dysregulated or triggered and what to do about it. Help them to create boundaries with other people and support the boundaries they have set. If the person wants to leave, don’t encourage them to say instead tell them you love them and ask if they want some company.