Supporting Loved Ones in Recovery During the Holiday Season

Dr. MangiacarneThe holidays can be a time of enormous pressure, temptation and emotional triggers for individuals in recovery. It can also be a time of stress for their family and friends, who often wonder how to be supportive, but there is hope. With a little effort and an open mind, everyone can enjoy the spirit of the season — together. Fairbanks Medical Director Darrin Mangiacarne, DO, MPH, CPE, offers a few tips for success:

  1. Maintain normalcy: While planning a holiday party, it is okay to have an open discussion to establish a plan for loved ones in recovery, but you should not treat them like children or make their recovery the focus of the entire party.

    “You can take basic precautions, like putting away prescription medications, but going overboard can make someone in recovery feel uncomfortable,” Dr. Mangiacarne said. “While conventional wisdom says to remove all alcohol from the party, simply not making it the center of the event is an appropriate first step. Focus on family, not the addiction.”

  2. Be supportive: If you have a loved one in recovery visiting from out of town, take some initiative by providing a list of local meetings and support groups, and offer transportation. That will encourage them to continue to stay focused on their recovery plan and let them know you support them.

    “It’s also a good idea to encourage the person in recovery to bring a friend to holiday gatherings for additional support,” Dr. Mangiacarne said.

  3. Focus forward: Avoid initiating conversations about the past or past mistakes.

    “People in recovery are usually hard enough on themselves, and adding to the guilt, frustration and stress they are already feeling can be harmful for their recovery,” said Dr. Mangiacarne. “Be supportive. If necessary, be there to listen and to offer hope and encouragement. Give them a chance to bond with family and help take their mind off of the serious stuff for a while. That’s the best gift we can give them.”