Helping Your Loved One Stay Sober During the Holidays

embracing her senior mother on New Year's day.
Photo by skynesher/

Whether it’s from increased exposure to people who are drinking and partying or whether it’s from coming up against internal stress and emotional difficulty, the holidays tend to present unique challenges to recovering addicts.

What can the family members of recovering addicts do to ensure their loved ones have a safe and sober holiday season?

The Value in Lending an Ear

Though the reasons may differ person to person, the holidays can be a stressful time for recovering addicts. This is a period when the general population tends to drink more (potentially exposing your loved one to more alcohol consumption occurring around them). The holidays may also be a difficult time for your loved one if they have an emotional connection to this time of year. Maybe they miss family members they can’t see, or perhaps the holidays bring up painful memories of previous Christmases and New Years spent drinking or using drugs.

No matter the reason for added stress and difficulty during this time of year, this can be a great time to lend an ear. Sometimes, all it takes for a recovering addict to have a happy and sober, relapse-free holiday is to have someone to talk to.

Protecting Your Loved One from Toxic Family Members

Sometimes, people turn to drinking or drug use because of a seemingly unsolvable problem within their family. Instead of facing the problem and tackling it, they instead drink alcohol or use drugs as a coping mechanism. Once they are clean and sober, they may have addressed and resolved their underlying triggers and impulses to use substances. However, it’s possible the troublesome family member(s) in question still creates a difficult situation within the recovering addict's life.

During the holiday season, you should do what you can to protect your loved one from any other family members who may have a toxic influence on your loved one. If it means preserving your loved one’s sobriety, don’t even allow the other family members to see them or interact with them. It’s not worth it.

Keep Alcohol Out of the House

Looking for alcohol
Photo by skynesher/

One of the golden rules to a happy and sober holiday season with a recovering addict is to keep alcohol out of the house. And to be safe, it’s also a wise move to keep pharmaceutical drugs under lock and key. This creates a safe environment for your loved one, a substance-free home where they do not have mind-altering substances nearby, offering potential temptation.

Keeping alcohol out of the house also helps set a good example of how your loved one should live their life. Even if alcohol was not their substance of choice, they should not be drinking (or using any mind-altering substances, for that matter).

Kindness is Sobriety’s Best Support

No matter what happens, don’t lose your kindness. Kindness is sobriety’s best support because kindness reinforces the notion that your loved one can and must stay sober. Kindness is a reminder that they are doing the right thing, creating a better life for themselves, and those who are kind to them are actively supporting them in that endeavor.

Be Your Loved One’s “Accountabilibuddy”

One of the best ways to help your loved one through the holidays is to be their “accountabilibuddy.” This means that, during the holiday season, you will stand with them in solidarity and not drink alcohol (or use drugs, of course). Not only is this a strong act of compassion and camaraderie, it also opens the door to the two of you being able to do fun, sober activities together. Consider getting creative with this and finding fun ways to enjoy the holidays (and doing it in a way that does not include mind-altering substances).

Stay Away from Alcohol-Related Parties

Holiday parties can be a fun and enjoyable way to celebrate the holidays. Due to COVID-19, there likely will not be much in the form of holiday parties this year. However, even if there are, and the parties are being done safely, it would not be a good idea to attend them with your loved one if there will be alcohol at such parties. Alcohol at parties opens the door to the potential for peer pressure and possibly even a relapse. You don’t want your loved one to be exposed to peer pressure or alcohol, and given the current pandemic, it may be a good idea to skip holiday parties altogether.

Make Sure Your Loved One is Connected with Support Networks

Laptop screen with family video chatting online on the occasion of Christmas celebration
Photo by mixetto/

Different types of support groups work for different people. Some recovering addicts choose to stay in touch with the treatment center they went to. They find peace, stability, solidarity, and support that way. Others attend group meetings, telehealth sessions, counseling sessions, etc. Whatever support network your loved one has created within their recovery, ensure they have access to it this holiday season. If they don’t have a support network in place already, consider helping them create one.

Entering 2021 Sober and Excited for a New Year

Recovery presents different types of challenges that come and go as one walks the path of sobriety and a drug-free life. It’s next to impossible to predict what kinds of challenges your loved one will face. However, the more help and support you can lend them the better during what may be challenging times for them.



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.