Navigating the Holidays With an Addicted Loved One

Navigating the Holidays With an Addicted Loved One

The holidays can be difficult when spent with a loved one who is an addict to drugs

The holidays are often one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year. This does not mean they cannot be great—even when you or a family member has a history of addiction to drugs like Xanax. There is no doubt that the holidays are a time of increased temptation as there will be parties and even potential for conflict with family members in closed quarters. Stress can bring even long-dormant behavior back to the surface, which should serve as a warning to those with substance abuse issues.[1]

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing psychiatric disorder that is characterized by the compulsive and uncontrolled use of a drug or activity, with maladaptive and destructive outcomes. Because of this, families where addiction is present are oftentimes painful to live in or be around unless some practical steps are taken. In many cases, those who live with addiction to drugs like Xanax may become traumatized to varying degrees by the experience. In many cases, the addict and each family member will go from one end of the emotional, psychological and behavioral spectrum to the other. The following are some tips to say sober during the holidays:

Plan Ahead as Much as Possible

It may not feel like fun to have a schedule during the holidays, but when a family plans ahead for different activities, in many cases this will help everyone have a better time and can even make things go more smoothly. One of the core concepts of treatment is that no one should ever wing it in his or her recovery. This is the case at any point during the year but even more so during the stressful, busy holiday season. A key element to planning ahead is that it helps to avoid times of boredom, which can amplify stress levels. Talk to the addicted individual and spend time rehearsing answers to any questions about rehab or addiction. For example, if you know that Aunt Ruth or Uncle George likes to ask a lot of questions, now is the time to figure out how much detail will be discussed. Even if you want to be completely open with the topic of recovery, it is still likely a good idea to at least write down a few notes. It is important to give everyone a chance to recharge as well, especially for those who are introverts. This is not to say everyone should be isolated. Rather, energy levels need to be managed—both physical energy levels and mental energy levels. An example of this could be going for a walk together. While this uses physical energy, in many cases physical energy boosts mental energy levels.

Try to Minimize Temptation as Much as Possible

If at all possible, it is best to minimize temptation to use alcohol or drugs like Xanax. If there is a family tradition to have a toast with wine or some other alcoholic beverage, this year could be a great time to start new traditions. The more temptation your loved one faces, the greater chance of a slip up. Mental energy is finite, so as amounts of self-discipline are used, the individual will become more anxious and more stressed. This could easily lead to a sarcastic remark in a conversation and could easily cause some conflict or even fighting between individuals.

If you think there could be an issue with not having alcohol, give other family members some notice and discuss it with them. Discuss ideas such as having the kids make punch together, and everyone will toast with that. Be sensitive, and realize that it is possible that there are other addicts in the family; functional alcoholism is quite common. This is when an individual binge drinks at times yet still maintains a job and has relationships is able to pay their bills and take care of responsibilities. Addiction historically runs very strong in family genetics. You can look at the family history and likely see this connection—if your father and grandfather were alcoholics, you are much more likely to be an alcoholic.

Give Space for Healing

What does healing look like? In many cases it can look different. Depending on the specific relationships, it will take different amounts of time for each individual. Healing often involves conversation and listening. In many cases it also requires actions, not words. The less stress there is, the more likely it is that healing will take place. Try to embrace simplicity during the holidays and take moments to enjoy the small things. Again, taking a walk outside or going caroling with the kids can really help reduce stress. You can embrace simplicity while also having a good time.

If you need help or support in staying sober and apart from drugs like Xanax during the holidays—for yourself or a loved one—please call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline and talk to one of our counselors. They will answer your questions and give you the information you need to move forward.


[1]  Addiction during the holidays: Recovered or not, it’s important to be prepared, Jaffe, Adi., December 23rd, 2010.

[2] Genes and Addictions, L Bevilacqua

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