Holiday Advice for Families

Tips for early recovery

If your loved one is in early recovery, it can be difficult to know what to say or how to act, especially during the holidays. The holidays tend to bring on added stress and pressure as families and extended families gather for maybe the only time during the year, and you may be wondering if now is a good time to get things out in the open, get really honest, and maybe even air some grievances you’ve been holding in. Centered Recovery understands that navigating the holidays can be tricky for families when a loved one is early recovery, so here is our best holiday advice for families and loved ones. 

Understand PAWS

Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is believed to be caused by the physical changes to the brain that occur during substance abuse, and causes some people in early recovery to experience physical and mental symptoms such as: 

  • Difficulty with cognitive tasks, such as learning, problem solving, or memory recall
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Depressed mood
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  • Difficulty maintaining social relationships
  • Craving originally abused substances
  • Apathy or pessimism
  • Disturbances in sleep patterns
  • Increased sensitivity to stress

These symptoms can last for a few weeks or even months, depending on the person, length of time abusing substances, the overall health of the person, and the ability to support recovery through healthy routines such as diet, sleep, and exercise. These symptoms are very real, and may make recovery feel extremely difficult! But if you understand PAWS you can be on the lookout for these symptoms and help reassure your loved one that this is actually a sign that the body is recovering. You can read more on PAWS on our blog. 

Don’t purge your hurts just yet

It may seem like the perfect time to really excise those wounds and say what has been bothering you. If your loved one has been in active addiction this year, they may have said or done things that hurt you, damaged your trust or relationships. You may feel entitled to finally say what’s on your mind now that they are in recovery and getting help, and we definitely understand that feeling. However, early recovery is not the best time to start airing all the misdeeds of your loved one just yet, as they are emotionally, physically, and mentally probably not quite ready for that. Especially during the holiday season, where there are already added pressures of guilt, stress, and even just extra events or activities to get through, adding painful emotional conversations may not be the best idea. 

Keep things light

If you are a concerned loved one who understands the need to be okay with the hard work your family member is doing in recovery, try to keep things light. Focus on activities you can do together during the holidays that are fun, enjoyable, and low stress–whatever that means for you as a family. If you like the outdoors, go on a holiday hike or bike ride, or just take walks around the block together. If you’re into music, make a playlist of your favorite songs and crank up the speakers, or attend a small concert or local venue of some favorite artists. Make a list of your favorite movies or games and pop some popcorn. Or find things in your area (or the city you’re traveling to for the holidays) like aquariums, museums, or historic tours you can check out. Not only will you be creating new holiday memories, but you’ll be cultivating a lower stress environment where no one feels pressure to figure everything out just yet. This will also help rebuild a new foundation for love and trust until you get to a place where you can get really honest about your loved ones past actions. 

Let them know you are there

We tend to easily say things like “I’m here for you”, and most of us really mean it when we say it. But remind your loved one that you are truly there for them by allowing them to show up, just as they are, even if how they are showing up doesn’t fit with your expectations of them. If they are tired, let them rest. Say something like, “I understand your brain and body are doing a lot of work right now, so please go rest if you’d like.” If they seem anxious or irritated, don’t snap back. “I know this can be a part of the process, and I know I am edgy when I’m unwell” can go a long way towards assuring your loved one that you truly are there for them. 

Let go of expectations

Even in “healthy” families, there can be a sense of expectation to make this holiday season be as fun, loving, or memorable as previous years, and that creates a lot of unnecessary stress. But particularly if your loved one is in the early stages of recovery, you should not expect things to be magically perfect and match your memories of years past. Let this holiday unfold without expecting Hallmark channel experiences and just be with your loved ones. The holiday season isn’t about giving the perfect gift or taking the perfect family portrait by a fire, it’s about acknowledging all the gifts we have, in ourselves and in each other. If your loved one made the tough choice to admit they needed help for an addiction that was controlling them, that is a monumental gift to themselves and to everyone who loves them. If you were able to support and love them through the darkest times of their addiction, you’ve already given them one of the greatest gifts imaginable. Acknowledge what you’ve been through and honor where you are now–together, healthier than before, and moving in the direction of honesty, trust, and perhaps even deeper love. 

If you or your loved one is in the North Georgia area of Alpharetta, Roswell, Milton, John’s Creek, or Marietta, and you need help with addiction or anxiety, stress, or burnout, now is the perfect time to call 800-556-2966. Give yourself the gift of health, give your loved ones the gift of a healthier you, and get yourself Centered.