Stressful family Christmas dinner

5 Tips for Dealing with Family Stressors This Time of Year

By Nina Bradshaw is a professionally qualified social worker and therapist in the UK. She earned a Master's Degree in Personality Disorder Studies, a Master's Degree in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and a Master's Degree in Sociology/Social Policy/Social Work.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

Stressful family Christmas dinner

This time of year involves spending a lot of time with family. For anyone, this can bring back familial pressures and family dynamics that lead to arguments and upset emotions. For the recovering addict, such high stress situations can easily set off a chain of difficult feelings that can ultimately push him or her into relapse.

Here are 5 ways to help you deal with family stressors this time of year.

For anyone, this time of year can bring back familial pressures and family dynamics that lead to arguments and upset emotions. Here are 5 ways to help you come out with your sobriety still intact.

1. Brace yourself.

If you’ve gone through any loss this year, being with family during the holidays can remind you of it more than ever. For instance, you may experience the absence of departed family members more intensely at this time, or feel the sting of old wounds as they are more prone to surface when everyone is together. Before entering into each other’s company, it is helpful to be aware of this so that negative emotions don’t catch you off guard and overwhelm you.

2. Don’t compare.

There is a general sense and social pressure to have an enjoyable time with our own family around the holidays. Often, however, we wind up feeling like others are having more fun with theirs and have a more ideal and festive period without any tension or conflict. Then, we get bombarded with things like mom getting stressed over the seating arrangements, dad drinking himself to sleep, and siblings playing out familiar rivalries, jealousies and petty spats. All of this can leave you wishing you were born into a more understanding and supportive family when, in reality, most families go through their own versions of the same story.

3. Be alert.

Many people drink a little too much this time of year, leading to resentment towards certain people in the family and cravings for those in recovery. Perhaps other family members are addicts too and they’re their most chaotic and self-indulgent selves during special occasions. If you’re in recovery, take precaution and heighten your vigilance. It’s understandable to want to see your family because, despite their flaws, you still care for them. But if they’re still struggling with untreated addiction, know that it’s OK (and probably best) to try to limit contact.

4. Care for yourself.

Whatever your experience is like with family and the holidays, it is undoubtedly a particularly difficult time of year for anyone in recovery. Try to make note of this and take whatever precautions you feel is necessary to protect your sobriety. Remember, you’re not alone in this struggle. Even those who’ve been in recovery for years still find this time of year to be the most demanding. Spend time with them if you need to. Allow yourself to have what you truly need this holiday season, which is to celebrate in a way that suits your sober lifestyle.

5. Reflect.

The end of the year is a good time to reflect on what you’ve achieved and where you’d like to go next on your recovery journey. Think of where you come from and where you are now. Set achievable targets for the year ahead and congratulate yourself on your achievements—whether they’re big leaps or just a few strides in the right direction. Most of all, try to enjoy yourself and find some time to relax.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.

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