How To Support a Loved One Living With Substance Abuse Through the Holidays

If you mention the approaching holidays to ten people, you’re likely to get mixed reactions. Some people feel ecstatic about the upcoming celebrations, while for others, holiday festivities can bring on serious anxiety and anguish. It’s critical to think about all your loved ones who are attending such holiday celebrations, particularly when they are coping with an active substance abuse addiction (opiate, alcohol, etc.), or are maintaining sobriety.

With this being said, there is a fine line between obsessively planning for holiday events in a way that sterilizes the day or evening for all the invitees, and planning your events so that both family members/loved ones living with an addiction and those who are not can enjoy themselves. You’ll want to make sure you have all the bases covered so that your loved ones feel like they’re in a safe, supportive, and emotionally stable environment.

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  • Impose an Impromptu Intervention with a loved one who has shown repeated signs of addiction, even if it’s right in front of you. Every intervention must be planned out as there are often details that could go missed without proper attention. (For more information regarding interventions).

  • Guilt Your Loved One into attending an event. If he or she is going through recovery, it’s of the utmost importance that they focus on what will keep them in sobriety. If this means missing a holiday gathering, then that is a ripple of sobriety. Perhaps planning a time after the holidays when stress is typically lower is an alternative.



  • Manage Expectations of the gathering or event. It’s crucial the the individual who has suffered with the addiction knows what to expect. With addicts, or those maintaining sobriety, it’s only in their benefit to know what to expect (i.e. “there will be drinking at the party”, or “we are planning on playing a group activity and would love for you to join”). Surprises can be upsetting if they force the individual, who may already feel emotionally susceptible, to engage in something that they feel uncomfortable doing. By managing expectations and being up front, the individual can chose to attend or not to attend confidently.

    • Note: if you feel as though the loved one is at risk of emotionally or physically hurting a member of the get-together, it’s a good idea to clearly lay out the expectations for that individual so that they know what is expected of them in order to attend the event. You can be straightforward in saying that if they break the agreement, you will be at liberty to ask them to leave the party. DO follow through with consequences if a boundary is broken.

  • Discuss What Can Make the Holidays Easier for a loved one suffering with an addiction or trying to remain sober. What are their pain points? What will make them want to relapse, or use immediately? What can your family members do to ease the loved one during the holiday season so that they don’t feel pressured or emotionally vulnerable? All of these questions and more are starting points to launch into a deeper conversation about comfort for the loved one.

  • Understand the Reality of a Possible Relapse for your sober loved one. However, if a relapse does occur, remain calm and make sure that the individual receives immediate care and support (such as Evans Management or another addiction treatment clinic, as well as NA and/or AA). It’s important not to shame or guilt the loved one as they understand the hardships of relapse just as well as you do.


If you have a loved one who has attempted to seek treatment, but hasn’t found the right place to recover, please consider giving Evans a call today. We are always here to help.

If you have any additional questions or unknowns, please visit this Social Work Today’s article.