The struggles addicts face during the holiday season, and how you can help

Chernomorova Olesia / ShutterstockLooking out for someone with an addiction can be emotionally draining.
  • Christmas can be a rough time of year for people struggling with addiction.
  • The holiday season is rife with merriment, old memories, and usually alcohol.
  • Addicts may grapple with their sobriety and be triggered by the past.
  • Here’s how you can help someone you care about through their addiction.
  • It’s also important to remember you can only do so much, and you should enlist professional help if you need it.

Christmas is just around the corner, meaning a few days of merriment and over-indulgence for many people. For others, though, it’s a tough time of year.

People struggling with addiction, for example, can face a number of hurdles, according to the American Addiction Centres‘ chief medical officer Lawrence Weinstein.

“The holidays can be a challenging time for anyone, whether they suffer from addiction or not,” he told INSIDER. “Family, for example, can bring about stresses that may trigger relapse in a person in recovery and could exacerbate substance use for someone in active addiction.”

Read more: 8 times celebrities have gotten brutally honest about the ups and downs of addiction and recovery

It’s likely family dynamics will have changes when there has been substance abuse, due to tension over finances, health, and any disagreements that may have happened. As a result, the person with the addiction may isolate themselves, which can exacerbate drug use, Weinstein said.

“Simply returning home can be a struggle for someone in addiction,” he added. “Returning to the place and area in which the substance use originated can conjure many memories, both good and bad.”

For instance, they may be around someone who they used to use substances with, or be reminded of the place they first bought drugs.

The very nature of the season can also be a trigger, even if the addict is on a healing path, Weinstein said, because alcohol is abundant at holiday parties. For someone trying to stay sober, being surrounded by alcoholic eggnog, mulled wine, and other indulgences can make it very difficult to avoid temptations.

What you can do to help

The first thing you can do to help a loved one facing addiction is to understand it’s a chronic, relapsing disease, said Weinstein.

“It is an illness that they did not ask for and they shouldn’t be blamed or attacked for something that they cannot control,” he said. “Having this mindset when approaching a loved one with addiction shows that you are coming from a place of love, understanding and concern for their well-being, which can go a long way.”

You should also be wary not to enable their behaviour. Addicts are often in codependent relationships, because it means they can explain away their behaviour, and they have someone catering to their every need.

“Remain consistent with the rules that you set for yourself and your loved one and any compromises made,” Weinstein said. “Do not allow them to use your vehicle, but do offer them a ride if they decide to go to a meeting or some other activity that would be beneficial to their recovery.”

Boundaries are really important, he added, because they will help both yourself and your loved one.

It’s also vital to take care of yourself, because helping someone with an addiction can take a toll on your mental health. So if the pressure becomes too much, don’t beat yourself up about it, and seek help from a professional counselor or therapist. And according to Weinstein, there’s only so much you can do.

“You can continue to encourage a loved one to get treatment, but ultimately, remember that despite your best intentions, that decision is theirs,” he said.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.