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Managing Recovery During the Holidays

The holiday season can be a difficult time for many people, with the stress of family expectations, social pressures and the assumption that all is jolly and bright—but for people struggling with addiction, these challenges are multiplied.

While they may be virtual this year, holiday parties and gatherings with family and friends will still be accompanied by the opportunity, and sometimes expectation, that most people will drink and have a raucous time. Paired with the need to navigate family systems, unknown or unseen pressures and changing boundaries, it isn’t always clear how newly sober people should best handle the holiday season.

As we approach the holidays, here are a few ways that you can help prepare yourself or a loved one:

Know what to expect
It’s important for people early in recovery to remember that while you’ve changed, in many ways, the rest of the world has not. Virtual or not, there will always be people at holiday parties enjoying a drink, and some may not be aware of your experience. Approach holiday events with the knowledge that you can only control your own actions and that you need to do what’s best for you.

Give yourself an escape plan
While it can be nice to spend time with your family and friends during the holidays, it can also be overwhelming. If you live with your family and can spend the holidays together this year, consider planning an escape route – that way you’ll be prepared whenever you feel like you might need a break from the festivities. Think of an errand to pop out for when you need a breather and know where your safe spaces are for before and after gatherings.

Be deliberate with your support network
Throughout the holidays, many recovery support groups are available 24/7, with marathon in-person and virtual drop-in meetings to help people slow down for a moment and share their challenges. Before you dive into holiday events, identify where you can find support, and reach out to your network to let them know that you may need to lean on them on a particular day.

Ask loved ones what they need—or communicate your own needs
Family members and friends are often unsure of how best to support a loved one struggling with addiction over the holidays, worrying about upsetting someone or making the holidays harder. But for newly sober people, it can be frustrating to have the rest of the dinner table walking on eggshells around you.

In the end, the best way to support your loved one is simply to ask what they need. Stop trying to guess what will be best for them, and work together to make a plan. What are their boundaries, and how can you help make the holidays easier for them?

We’re here to help, 24/7/365
For some, there can be a temptation to “just wait” until after the holiday season to get help, thinking that things will be better in the new year or that the holidays isn’t the right time. The truth is there’s never a bad time to reach out. These are important conversations that shouldn’t wait, and letting yourself or a loved one continue to struggle can lead to a dangerous situation.

As one of our alumni recently reminded us, asking someone if they need help is a loving action – and that’s what the holidays are all about.

If you have any questions or need to talk, Cedars will be open throughout the holiday season. For more resources, check out:

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