Family occasions can often stir memories, images and feelings for a loved one in recovery. These sentiments are mostly positive; such as dad carving the turkey, mum handing out gifts or the grandchildren listening to stories. But these holidays can also stimulate negative memories, like the loss of a family member, or feelings of hurt, guilt and shame. When deciding to invite a family member or a friend in recovery to a celebration, it’s important to remain sensitive and to prepare for emotions.
Those in long-term recovery will have learnt the skills to navigate such challenges; but those in the early stages of recovery may have difficulties coping with the stresses of their emotions. When the host makes an active effort to ensure a convivial mood and atmosphere, celebrating holidays with a loved one in recovery can reinforce the values of the happier, healthier life that they have embraced. The following is a short manual to make sure that celebrations go to plan for both the host and the person in recovery.
For the Host:
Decide if you and your family are prepared
Ensure that there are no former grudges or resentments that could trigger a negative atmosphere. Talk with members of the family to bury any unresolved hurts and try to educate them about addiction, and what recovery entails.
Ask the recovering person if they would like to be invited
Let them know that it’s perfectly fine to take a rain check, if that is what is best for their recovery. After all, recovery takes priority.
Ask what beverage they would like
You may assume it is best to serve non-alcoholic drinks; whilst this is true for many in recovery, it’s important to ask the individual, to avoid any triggering situations.
For the Person in Recovery:
Be mindful of what you eat and drink
Alcohol isn’t always served in a bottle or a glass; sometimes it is presented in food or ‘natural wines.’ It’s important to remember that even a small amount of alcohol could trigger a relapse.
Stick to a sober plan
How about bringing along your own jug of water or soda and keeping it close, so you don’t have to remember where the bar is?
Take some time to step away, if you need to
It’s ok to take a break from the festivities; relax in a quiet place or step away for a while if the situation becomes triggering. The goal is to stay sober.
It’s fine to let people know you’re in recovery
There’s a lot less stigmatization around alcohol addiction than in former days; being open is your choice but it can help others know that you’ve given up alcohol. This way you might even be encouraging others, who are secret addicts, to seek medical help.