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How to Talk to a Loved One about Their Addiction Around the Holiday

Author: Jaclyn Daugherty

Many people wait until the new year begins to start making healthy changes. But if your loved one is struggling with a harmful addiction, it may be best to talk to your loved one sooner.

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“The holiday season can be a stressful time for individuals with the disease of addiction,” says. Dr. Michael Frost, Medical Adviser at Sunspire Health. “Being around parties or events where alcohol is present, feeling the need to meet the expectations of family, and the financial burden that comes with the holidays can all be major stressors.”

Talking to your loved one before the holiday may keep their substance use from escalating from these holiday-related stress and triggers. It can also help them get in the mindset to make positive changes in their health before the new year comes along. If you decide to talk to your loved one before the holiday, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Get Family Members on the Same Page

You may prefer to have a one-on-one conversation with your loved one about their addiction. However, it’s still a good idea to keep family members in the loop so they can give positive support. It’s no secret that drinking is common at holiday family gatherings, and this tradition can serve to enable substance use in a person with an addiction.

Tell family members that you’re concerned for the loved one’s health and well-being, and that you’re worried about their behavior. Let them know that addressing your loved one’s problem could save their life, and that family gatherings should create a nurturing, supportive environment that’s conducive to healthy changes. Remind them that this is also an opportunity to create new traditions that support recovery.

Share the Benefits of Sobriety around the Holiday and Beyond

Remind your loved one that getting sober around the holiday can help them be more present with family, friends, children, or other loved ones. If relationships among family members are strained as a result of addiction, there’s no better time to heal and celebrate those relationships.

You can also remind your loved one that getting sober around the holiday can help them gain a fresh start in the new year. They won’t be alone in making healthy changes as the new year kicks off. And by getting sober in the holiday season, they can rest assured they’ll start the new year off on the right foot.

Show Kindness and Concern—Not Anger or Resentment

When it comes time to talk to your loved one, it’s important to stay calm and let them know how much you care about them. Even if your loved one has hurt you or others as a result of their addiction, now is not the time to address those issues. Showing anger could cause the person to become defensive and brush off the idea of getting help completely.

“I” statements can help you show your concern without becoming accusatory. For example, say “I am worried about what will happen if you keep using,” or “I am concerned about what your alcohol use will do to your health down the road.”

No matter what your loved one’s reaction is, it’s important to make sure that they feel welcomed to participate in the holiday, even if the conversation doesn’t go as you hoped. If you ban your loved one from the holiday festivities, they could fell embarrassed or ashamed, which could further fuel their addiction. Set expectations for behavior if needed, but don’t let your loved one feel left out.

To learn more about treatment options for your loved one, call one of Sunspire Health’s care advocates at 815-277- 4539. 

Topics: For Loved Ones