How to Support Your Loved Ones in Recovery During Thanksgiving
Updated: Apr 4
Our loved ones in recovery feel a lot of pressure during the holidays and it's not gonna hurt us if we help them through it. You may wonder if you should skip the alcoholic beverages and settle for mocktails and juices. You might also worry about the family members who would love to have alcohol during this day.
Creating a safe space for everyone is important when you host an event. With your loved one in recovery, you might need to take an extra layer of precautions. Building new and creative traditions can help maintain the fun and cheerful vibes of the holidays while being respectful of everyone's necessities.
Discuss with your loved ones
Before even Thanksgiving Day itself, have a talk with your loved ones regarding both your expectations and needs. Show them that you understand that it can be really challenging for their individual recovery. Fill the conversation with honesty and kindness. Make them feel like they can express their preference without the risk of offending you.
Sometimes, it is not just the alcohol or drugs that can cause a problem. Reunion can be hard too because some friends or family members might ask difficult questions that can trigger them. It is not only about their drug addiction. Get-togethers are all about updating each other about what is happening in your life and your loved one might not be comfortable with sharing their recovery journey. A lot of people in recovery avoid gatherings because they feel like they will be a burden.
In the discussion, consider bringing up the guest list. This is to give them an idea of who they will have to deal with. Ask them, is there someone who they could have an issue with? Someone they might have to still make amends with. It is easier for both parties to fix the underlying issues before the gathering. Let them know that Thanksgiving day is not the time to bring up, discuss and talk over problems.
Discuss beforehand the presence of alcohol at the party. How do they feel about it? How can they cope up with it? Do they trust themselves with the alcohol's presence? If not, collaborate with them on how they can enjoy the gathering without being on edge. Offering your loved one to attend support meetings on or before the holidays can help take off the pressure. Talking with people who experience the same things as them can bring big relief.
The factor of alcohol in the event
For some people, the presence of alcohol is not a problem and they can control themselves around it. But for some, it might be harder. Present to your loved ones the plans for the day. If it is possible, offer them a chore that will lessen their interaction with difficult family members.
Consider decreasing the amount of alcohol in the event. It might help ease the tension, show them that you value their presence and you want to support their sobriety journey. However, you must also take into consideration to not create a full-on alcohol-free event. Your other guests might not appreciate it, as well as, your loved one has to learn to be exposed to it eventually. Just make sure that the drinking will be controlled and you can help your loved one when things take a bad turn.
Plan a new non-alcoholic tradition so no one feels left out. It could be games that don't include drinking, creating a new recipe, or gift-giving. There are a lot of beverages that can replace alcohol. Some will settle with mocktails and non-alcoholic wines, it wouldn't even make a difference after some time. Creativity is the key to making everyone feel included in the event.
Help monitor stressful situations
Although holidays are always associated with fun and relaxation, there's still could be a lot of triggering situations when family or friends get together. It doesn't hurt to help your loved one by being aware of the situations that could potentially stress them out. When you notice that some conversations are about to turn into arguments, try to break in and remove the individual swiftly without offending anyone. Unwanted stress can drive your loved one to the temptations of alcohol.
Help them avoid toxic interactions. In any family or friendship, there is always a possibility of two people bringing out the worst in each other. This is the circumstance we want to avoid in get-togethers.
Coordinate with your loved one about their escape plan. Prioritize a parking spot for them that will not be blocked by other cars. Give them a room to be quiet for a few minutes. Ask them to invite a sober buddy. Be attentive to their needs and study their body language because they might not immediately put into words how they feel. To help a loved one needs a lot of understanding and patience.
Keep it realistic
Do not promise anyone a flawless day. There will always be something that can cause worries to the event. Keep a realistic expectation for you and your guests. Your efforts to create an organized and safe event are already enough. Let everyone enjoy it but in a harmless way.
Organizing a get-together with a recovering loved one is both challenging and fulfilling. Being able to help them to dip their toe back into normal life again can be dangerous but with your guidance, they can heal gently. The holidays are about being grateful and you want your loved ones to feel that too despite what they are going through.
Lastly, take care of yourself. Looking out for people can take a toll on you especially when everyone depends on you. Self-care is as important as your loved one's healing. Do not neglect your own needs and wants.