Uncomfortable holiday with family

3 Coping Strategies for Uncomfortable Holiday Settings

By Tori Utley is an entrepreneur working jointly in technology innovation and addiction recovery, holding her license as an alcohol and drug counselor (LADC) in Minnesota.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

Uncomfortable holiday with family

Ah, the holidays. A time for family gatherings and living out family dynamics.

Maybe you're dreading this time of year, or maybe you're looking forward to it. Either way, you're probably thinking about that one family member who always gives you a hard time. Whether it's about your alcohol use or your past, it can be easy to take it personally.

Going into potentially tense situations with a plan can be just what you need to get through the holidays and actually enjoy it.

Going into potentially tense situations with a plan can be just what you need to get through the holidays and actually enjoy it. If things start to heat up between you and a family member, try these coping skills to keep you centered in recovery.

1. Don't react.

No matter what they say, try not to get worked up. Having the ability to stop anger or overreaction before it happens will be a testament to the things you're working on in recovery.

If you feel like you're going to overreact, politely excuse yourself and take a moment to gather your thoughts. You can even call up a sponsor, sober friend or recovery coach. A minute of support can help you stay levelheaded, and might even give you some humor to hold onto. Try to diffuse the situation as best as you can, and keep your emotions in check.

2. Think of a positive memory.

If you're going into a family gathering with a chip on your shoulder, you'll be at a disadvantage and will be more susceptible to conflict. Instead, try to think of a positive memory about that family member. Maybe it was when you were a child, or maybe it was even recently. Try to fill your mind with positive thoughts, and even send silent wishes of gratitude for that family member.

3. Let the comments roll.

If someone says something negative towards you, try your best to shrug it off or let it roll off your shoulders. As some say "ride the wave."

When someone says something unpleasant to you, it can bring up many negative emotions. Visualize yourself riding that wave all the way out, knowing it might feel unpleasant, but it will be over soon. It's easier said than done, but even simple visualization strategies can boost your in-the-moment coping abilities.

What Really Matters

At the end of the day, you can only control you. You won't be able to change or influence the behavior of other people, even if one of your family members is driving you crazy. Do the best you can and don't sweat the small stuff.

If you do overreact, it's not the end of the world. Whatever it is, just don't let it be an excuse to drink.

No one can take your recovery away from you. Embrace the journey, stay equipped with a plan to handle tense situations, and whatever happens, remind yourself that you're on the right path in recovery.

It isn't always easy, but sticking with a positive attitude can go along way – especially with family.

As it was best said by Hall of Fame baseball player Wade Boggs, "A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results."

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

Stay Connected
Subscribe to our newsletter to get addiction help, recovery inspiration and community tips delivered to your inbox.
No Thanks. I'm not Interested