Recovering from a substance use disorder is a lifelong process. Part of the work of recovery is accounting for the actions and behaviors that were a part of your active addiction. Such actions may have included dishonesty while acquiring and using drugs or alcohol or simply denying the existence of a problem, even when the signs were obvious.
If you are recovering from an addiction, you’re probably well aware that there are many fences you’ll need to mend, especially when it comes to family relationships. During the holiday season, you’ll likely encounter many familiar faces. Some of these people will be supportive of your recovery and excited for your progress. But others might need more time to trust you again.
If you’re among the estimated 10 percent of American adults in recovery for a substance use disorder, you already know that reconnecting with family may not be an easy task.1 However, by making an effort, you may end up with additional sources of support as you continue with your recovery.
Here are some tips to keep in mind while preparing for reconnecting with family members during the holidays.
1. Communicate openly and honestly with family members
A lack of communication is the leading cause of issues in the family.2 If your communication skills weren’t all that great before you started recovery, making a few changes during the holidays can help foster productive conversations.
Start by letting loved ones know that you are in recovery. Be honest and admit that you still have goals to achieve—but you are making progress. You don’t have to get into a detailed discussion of what contributed to your dependence. But letting your family members know you are ready to be more open with them is a good starting point.
2. Honestly ask for forgiveness
If you’ve struggled with addiction, odds are you’ve unintentionally created some wounds and hurt some people within your family. Instead of carrying guilt and shame about your past behaviors and actions, honestly apologize to anyone who was hurt by the things you did. Be honest about your past actions and sincere in your desire to regain their trust.
3. Look for common activities
You don’t have to discuss every detail of your past actions during the holidays. But what you can do is look for common activities you can do with other family members. This may include playing board games, playing video games together or even helping out in the kitchen with holiday meal preparations. If your relationship with your kids or spouse was compromised, spend some extra time with them doing activities you know they enjoy.
4. Let family members know how they can help
Get your family members involved with your recovery efforts during the holidays by letting them know how they can help you stay committed to your sobriety. Such efforts may include being cautious with family gatherings where alcohol will be available. Suggesting that healthy snack options be included with holiday meals can also be helpful, since healthy eating habits can help with your recovery.
Unfortunately, not every family relationship will be repaired during the holidays. In some cases, resentment and hurt feelings may run deep. Accept the fact that some relationships may not be salvageable, even if you are enjoying a successful recovery. But don’t be discouraged. Instead, focus on the positive steps you can take to repair relationships and reconnect with your loved ones during the holidays. Continue with your efforts even after the holidays.