By Stephanie O’Brian, Ed. S., LPC
Let’s face it: The holidays can be emotional and difficult. Family tensions may arise, lost relatives may be grieved, and old baggage may be drudged up. The last thing someone may want to add to the mix is spending holidays away from family.
But what if holidays away from home are exactly what is needed? What if encouraging yourself or your loved one to enter rehab during this season is precisely what is necessary for change? This decision has the potential to change the trajectory of your life and create a healthier, more loving family unit down the road.
What if encouraging yourself or your loved one to enter rehab during this season is precisely what is necessary for change? This decision has the potential to change the trajectory of your life and create a healthier, more loving family unit down the road.
Having a Loved One in Treatment Over the Holidays
It is easy to have a spirit of timidity if this is your or your loved one’s first holiday away from family. How do you go about helping it feel normal? The Partnership to End Addiction highlights three key principles to bear in mind when your loved one is in rehab:
The Principle of the Sail
You may be the best mariner of all time, but you can’t control the wind. Similarly, you will never be in control of your loved one (or their recovery). It is best to learn that you can only control yourself.
The Principle of Waxing Strength
As your loved one has been weakened by addiction, we need to give them time to regain their strength and assist them by removing potential triggers and obstacles that may interfere with their recovery (like having alcohol present).
The Principle of Falling Walks
This rehab experience may be new, so instead of making assumptions, simply ask direct questions. It is OK to ask your loved one if they are OK with you asking questions. There is no magical, one-size-fits-all response to how someone will react or what they will need. The best thing to do is ask!
When Things Are Different Than Normal
Holidays represent a time of tradition, and breaking from tradition can be hard. Holiday sadness may intensify depending on how different things are. As you adjust to the unusualness of the season, it is important to remember the saying that nothing changes if nothing changes.
Chances are, having a loved one suffering from addiction has made for some not-so-great holiday moments. So, although you may need to deviate from traditions this year, it may also mean you get to truly celebrate without the layered complexity of addiction during holidays to come.
Here are ways the Grotto Network suggests mitigating holiday sadness while spending holidays away from family:
- Make plans with friends – If you foresee yourself feeling down or getting caught in an unhealthy cycle of binge eating and watching TV, be intentional about making plans with friends ahead of time.
- Schedule time to talk with family – Be intentional about talking to your loved one in rehab over the holidays. Figure out the best time and means of communication, and schedule it.
- Make sure you have your comfort food – Allow yourself to still savor your favorites. It is OK to allow yourself the comfort of your favorite holiday foods even though you are apart.
Benefits of Treatment During Holidays
Spending holidays away from family can be agonizing, but it is imperative to remember that if you or your loved one is in rehab, then you are exactly where you need to be. You (or they) are finally getting the help that you and others have hoped and prayed for. There are even perks to being in rehab over the holidays. Here are some to consider:
Fewer potential triggers – Sometimes, the holidays can bring up bad memories or put you in triggering situations. These circumstances, coupled with the abundance of alcohol during the season, can be brutal.
Sobriety is a great holiday gift – Addiction is destructive not only to you, but your entire family. Spending the holidays away from family makes holiday gift-giving easy as you give (and receive!) the best gift of all — your own sobriety.
Spending the holidays away from family makes holiday gift-giving easy as you give (and receive!) the best gift of all — your own sobriety.
You already have time off – It’s not uncommon to have a few weeks of paid time off over the holidays. This is a convenient time to take additional time off to focus on wellness as it can minimize the burden on your job or finances.
Fresh start to the new year – Holidays spent in rehab mean beginning your new year with a truly clean slate. This is everyone’s dream! By starting the year off strong, you increase your chances of successfully maintaining your resolutions.
Healthy new connections – During treatment, you will be with others like yourself who are working just as hard to overcome and improve their lives. The holidays can allow for some unique opportunities to bond with others who can empathize with you and encourage and empower you as you journey together.
The Bright Side to Rehab Over the Holidays
Think of the future. You are sacrificing one holiday season in order to gain a lifetime’s worth of holidays that are sober and genuinely more joyful. Is it a hard sacrifice? Absolutely. Bournewood Health Systems is here to make this difficult time less burdensome. At Bournewood, our caring staff knows how difficult spending holidays away from family can be; we also know firsthand how amazing it is when you are on the other side and no longer bound by the chains of addiction. To learn more about our treatment options that include both inpatient and partial hospitalization, reach out today.