The holidays are a happy time for many people, filled with merriment and joy as they spend time with their families and celebrate the season. And for some, the holidays may be a reminder of the challenge of maintaining sobriety, as those who lead sober lifestyles face holiday-stressors like parties, alcohol consumption and reconnecting with friends and family.
One of the most important things we can do at this time is to remember that we have boundaries and that it’s our right to reinforce and assert them. During the holidays, one of our priorities in sobriety is the ability to handle gatherings and parties centered around alcohol without the urge to drink and walk away from any situation that might be triggering or uncomfortable for us.
Family members can be triggering as well, especially when they’re estranged and we’re seeing them for the first time at gatherings. It can also be a struggle to deal with family members who may be intoxicated.
With that said, how do we go about reconnecting with a loved one while setting boundaries at the same time?
First of all, it’s okay to not talk about anything you may not be comfortable discussing. Should your family member/friend bring up something that you’re not ready to talk about, you can politely tell them so and change the subject. Try saying something like, “I’m not comfortable talking about that yet,” or adding, “Maybe one day in the future we can sit down and catch up some more,” if you want to keep the door open for more conversation.
If you see that a family member is drinking too much, it’s also okay to keep your distance from them whenever possible. When offered a drink, politely decline but don't feel the need to explain. You don’t have to give any reasons as to why you aren’t drinking or why you’re sober. If a family member doesn't know about your situation, you can choose to tell them or save the conversation for another time.
If a conversation is getting uncomfortable or veering into questions about your sobriety or days of active addiction and it’s something you don’t want to discuss, simply excuse yourself.
No matter how long you’ve been in recovery—a year or 30 years—it’s also okay to turn down invitations to family gatherings where drinking is involved if need be. There’s no reason to feel guilty for taking care of yourself and putting your sobriety first.
There may be family members in attendance who you haven’t spoken to in a long time or the relationship may have been damaged due to alcohol or drug addiction. If they choose not to speak to you or still maintain resentment, respect that they’re asserting their own boundaries and choose not to let that affect your own sobriety or become emotionally entangled. Some people simply need more time.
Never be afraid to assert your own point of view or need to communicate. With patience, love and time, all relationships can become healthy again.