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Navigating the Holidays When Your Child is in Early Recovery from Addiction
by Dr. John Dyben, DHSC, MCAP, CMHP
Families can experience many emotions while navigating the holidays, whether in still waters or rough seas. Friends and families come together and we place at the forefront of our thoughts all of the joy of our connections that we sometimes forget in the day-to-day. In these special times, our gratitude for life and joy in all we share is so sharply focused that many describe these as “magical” times, bursting with wonder and delight.
The flipside to this coin is that emotional pain and difficulties may also be magnified during these times. We miss lost loved ones a little bit more. We remember and wish for simpler times. We feel the weight of difficult circumstances a little bit heavier.
In few ways is this phenomena more realized than with families who have a loved one in very early recovery. Strong emotions combine with a multitude of questions to create a feeling of constant pressure and walking on eggshells. Families want to know how they should act around their loved ones new to recovery. They ask if they should have alcohol at gatherings, who should be invited to functions, even if they should participate in celebrations at all. They wonder if they should give gifts or hold back. They agonize over how to have a “normal” holiday, often having had so many where their loved one was actively using substances or even absent altogether.
As someone who has been in this position, I can share that there are three important guiding principles that can help families navigate these times.