Syringes to Sobriety

Stories and Advice from a Real Heroin Addict

Holidays in Recovery- Beating Bah Humbug

So, you have made it through Thanksgiving with the family. Maybe this was your first Thanksgiving in recovery or maybe you are a bit more seasoned, having attended multiple family gatherings since you started your recovery journey. Either way, this article is for anyone who is just trying to cope with the holidays in recovery.

With preparation and a little extra recovery work, the holidays are survivable. Don’t worry, the work is not too stressful. Consider this an exercise in centering yourself before dealing with situations that may trigger you. Following the advice in this article before the holidays should be equated to having a light stretch before going for a run.

I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving, but if you didn’t, there is still hope of turning things around for Christmas and the New Year. If you follow the blog, you may have read Coping with the Holidays in Recovery: Part 1. This is a continuation of that article. However, in this article, I delve into more detail about a few key tips, as well as answer some questions I received from readers of Part 1 of this series.

Let’s get started.

Holidays in Recovery:

Xmas Tree Time Triggers

Stressing over buying gifts, attending family gatherings or seeing that family member you never truly get along with, are all potential triggers. However, a bit of preparation will get you through the holidays intact.  I will give you some pro tips to make your holidays as enjoyable

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

as possible this year.

You can thank me later. 

I last addressed the topic of coping with the holidays in recovery before Easter, but this is not an effort to be redundant.  It takes time for a recovering user to master the skills required to truly enjoy the holidays, free from the risk of relapse.  

It would be irresponsible, and frankly, unkind to put loads of information I have gathered on the subject into a single article.    Splitting the series up into Parts allows me to limit my word count in an effort to quell any panic causing a reader to click right out of the article.  You have enough stress, my goal is to alleviate that, not create more!

On a serious note though, holidays can be a very dangerous time for recovering substance abusers and, unfortunately, recovery programs lack the necessary curriculum to prepare clients to enter the ‘real world’ of Thanksgiving Dinners, Christmas parties and the like.

In this article, I share advice on how to prepare for any family-centered events that, those of us who are well enough, have been fortunate enough to receive an invite. I will share personal experiences, some ending well and some not so well, that most of you will be able to relate to. Also included are survival tips to follow during this relapse-heavy time of the year.

Image courtesy of Gratisography/Ryan McGuire

A little preparation goes a long way in ensuring the holidays do not leave a sour taste in any of yours, or your families, mouths. Trust me even the smallest of incidences has the potential to negatively impact familial interactions long after Christmas morning gift exchanges…or the last day of Hanukah! Don’t worry, I did not forget about you, Jewish friends! I grew up in a household that celebrated Christmas (mum’s side) and Hanukah (dad’s side). I am very familiar with both holidays and no, before any of you ask, we did not get double presents!


Holidays in Recovery:

The Family Dilemma

Family relations, even the lack thereof, are extremely important to the successful recovery of EVERY substance abuser. If you have struggled to get clean and you can not quite put your finger on what the issue is, I suggest contacting a family therapist that specializes in working with family units that include a member(s) struggling with substance abuse issues.

It took some time to relearn how to interact with my family without feeling the need to use. Importantly, my family was also willing to do the therapy work needed to prevent them from unknowingly contributing to my substance abuse issues.  

A recovery plan has a significantly higher chance of succeeding if both the user and his family get treatment.   I was referred to  Mitzi Mackenzie, MSW, LCSW, who specializes in family therapy and systems, as well as substance abuse issues. My family seemed healthy enough on the surface with no bright red flags for substance abuse risk,  but Mitzi was able to help us identify the issues we did have that had been running under the surface for quite some time. This allowed us to finally move forward and for my recovery to begin.

If you cannot find Mitzi Mackenzie with a Google search, feel free to email me at so I can get you connected. She has appeared on Intervention and her methods are in line with the mission of Syringes to Sobriety. Even if you just use her as a consultant, she is incredibly skilled at crafting recovery plans tailored to each specific individual and, most importantly, she will let you have a say in your recovery.

Holidays in Recovery:

A Little Imagery

A quick search of the internet returns plenty of tips for alcoholics trying to stay sober during the holidays, but little information is readily available for those of us who have the urge to use drugs during the holidays.

Here at Syringes to Sobriety, we get it. We have all experienced the urge to either shoot up, smoke a tray, snort some shit, or pop a pill before showing up to certain holiday-decked functions.

Can you imagine it now? Aunt Joan, wearing her paper Santa Claus beard, greets you with her cheek -squeezing and billions of questions before you have a minute to get to your bearing.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Grandpa Jo, dressed in the ugliest Christmas sweater Grandma could dig up from the basement, corners you with stories of how his buddies that used to smoke opium in Nam all passed away within months of returning from overseas, trying to scare you straight. (all out of love, but this can be triggering) “Cadet, you need you some good ol’ boot camp!  Back in my day…”

Photo by Daniel Ioanu on Unsplash

Am I making you nervous with this imagery? I bet you feel yourself coming down with the flu bug suddenly.

Are you suddenly thinking of ways to get out of the next function to RSVPed to?

Photo by Ethan Haddox on Unsplash

Well, get that thought right out of your head!

This brings us to tip #1.

Holidays in Recovery Tip #1

Tip #1: SHOW UP, but don’t be a ‘yes man’

Most of us missed out on numerous years of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s family gatherings. Some of us were completely estranged from the family, not even receiving an invite. Others made promises of attending and would not show up, maybe because we were dope sick or, hell, just too high to really care or want to be seen (judged) at the time. Whatever your story is, while stuck in a cycle of substance abuse, we are all notoriously unreliable.

Canceling plans at the last minute, even if you are clean and living your best life now, will spark unwanted memories in the minds of your family members. This will naturally cause your family to question whether you are truly clean. They may start to believe you have slipped up.

Nip all these potential rumors in the bud and SHOW UP.

Now, you may be having a bit of de Ja Vu if you are a regular reader. Tip number 1 in Part 1 of this series was “Show up, even if you have not stopped using completely.” Although this tip is still useful, we wanted to take it a step further. It is important to show up, BUT you do not need to be a ‘yes man.’

Around this time of year, we are faced with thanksgiving dinners, Christmas parties, family brunches, golf days with the uncles, shopping days with grandma, Christmas light festivals with the nieces and nephews, gingerbread decorating with Great Aunt Bernie, and so on. Your squeaky-clean, horribly missed self will be invited to ALL these events.

A YES man responds yes to every invitation offered to these events. A YES man ends up overwhelmed with all the events he committed to attend. The YES man ends up at a much higher risk of using than those of us who limit ourselves to only attending a few select gatherings over the holiday season.

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

If you communicate to your family which events you are available for AND you SHOW UP for the events you do commit too, your family will understand your need to limit yourself. Explain that spreading yourself too thin may cause too much stress and that you are not quite ready for this yet.

Trust me, your family would much rather have you alive and off substances than at risk of relapsing because you committed to too much. I suggest, if fresh in recovery, you pick 2 or 3 events to attend and focus on being your best you while in attendance.

Holidays-in Recovery
Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

As time goes on and we get more ‘clean time confidence’, most of us can attend an increasing number of events. Others may never be able to

attend more than a select few, but that is OKAY.

Try to pick events scheduled around the healthy habits that have helped keep you clean.

Trust me, you can do this. Let’s get you prepped.

Holidays in Recovery:

Potential Triggers

We all know that a drug user does not need to worry about turning down a heroin fix during dinner, like an alcoholic may have to do with a glass of wine. Exposure is not the issue. However, a drug user must worry about a much more insidious, often unavoidable, trigger…FAMILY.

To give you an idea of what I am talking about, here are just a few specific examples of triggers I have personally faced during the holidays:

1. Issues between family members that have been brewing for years

Photo by on Unsplash

2. Judgment from family members who do not believe recovery is possible for substance users, or at least not possible with an AA style program

Photo by ella peebles on Unsplash

3. Failure to find a healthy balance between time spent with family and time spent on healthy habits you have developed to rebuild your life in recovery.

Photo by Manan Chhabra on Unsplash

Holidays in Recovery: 

Personal Experience with Holiday Triggers

There was a time when I was deep in a using cycle, where I could not bring myself to have so much as a phone conversation with any of my family members without getting sufficiently doped up first. My family never meant to make me feel this way, but my own shame made me feel inadequate.

Shame is a powerful emotion. When I feel ashamed, I get incredible urges to numb myself before speaking to those who care about me. I can almost guarantee a high percentage of recovering users can relate to this.

This feeling can butt its ugly head when you least expect it. For example,

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

sometimes, I will be having a perfectly normal day, going about my routine and getting shit done. My mum’s or dad’s number will come up on my caller ID and I take pause. In a split second, I will go from feeling fine to knowing if I answer that call, the minute I hear the voice on the other end of the phone, the waterworks will begin.

This is usually because I am feeling some type of shame about something and hearing the voice of someone who loves me is bound to bring all the emotions I have been stuffing down deep straight up to the surface.

Have you ever felt like this? Well, using drugs before these conversations was an extremely effective technique for staving off the tears. Repeatedly using to suppress my feelings only made the situation worse in the end.

I still struggle with this today, even though I am in a much better place in

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

my recovery journey. Sometimes, hearing the voice of a loved one just knocks down all the walls I have erected to shut the feelings in.

I try to put on a happy façade, but most of the time, I am not as ashamed to let these feelings out with people who love me. It is the only way to truly, healthily deal with the shame I feel about the mistakes I have made thus far.

Even after months of counseling, I am still working on my relationships with family members. I share this because it is important to remember that there is no immediate fix, certainly not in time for Christmas morning and the New Year.

Holidays in Recovery:

Knowing Your Family Dynamic

If you feel seeing family during the holidays this year is going to be detrimental to your recovery, you are not alone. Some of us are fortunate enough to have families who are loving and supportive. Others are not so lucky, having families who are emotionally and physically abusive, or even cold and dismissive. If you are in the latter category, it is okay to stay away from your family this year. YOUR RECOVERY (and physical and emotional safety) must be your number one concern.

Photo by Johanna Dahlberg on Unsplash

Many Anonymous meeting halls serve food and hold meetings over the holidays. Churches are also a good place to look for company during the holidays. If you have any friends that are celebrating, see if you can join them for the holidays. Being alone on a holiday, whether using or in recovery, is not the answer, EVER.

If you are struggling with drug use, you will inevitably feel drained after a family function, no matter if you have a supportive or unsupportive family. I call this the ‘after-family hangover.’ Getting high may seem like a great way to alleviate ‘after-family hangover’ symptoms, but it will cause you to take one step back in your recovery.

You are going to have to learn to deal with these feelings, without using, eventually. This takes practice, but we must start somewhere. Why not this year? (For decompression ideas, see Part 1

Holidays in Recovery- Tip #2

Tip #2: Step out of the Spotlight

If you are fresh in recovery, your family has probably spent the last few years worrying nonstop about you. Face it, you probably deteriorated quickly before you ended up getting your life back together. Parents and other family members naturally get worried when they witness a loved one spiral.

Most likely you lost a job, were evicted from an apartment, moved back into your parent house(if lucky), your health may have started decline, and you may have started hanging with a crowd your parents viewed as dangerous.

Your negative decisions and the events arising from these decisions compounded stress for your family. Knowing your family was stressed only stressed you out more. This is a vicious, dizzying cycle, but you are finally regaining your balance.

This is all positive but be careful not to get overconfident. If you have less than five years of clean time under your belt, you are not out of the woods yet. Around the holidays, the exhaustion you and your family felt during the dark period of your drug abuse can creep up if you do not stay aware.

It is important, especially at family functions, to remember, you are not the center of attention. Trust me, you do not want to be anyway. It will not help your recovery. You can smile and thank people when they congratulate you on your recovery but, learn to take pause and resist the urge to engage in a detailed conversation. Holidays celebrations with family are not the time nor the place.

I know, I know, there are always those family members who, after putting back their sixth overfilled glass of wine, decide it is appropriate to press you for more information. There is one in every family who fails to see the irony of speaking to you about your recovery while they are two sheets to the wind. Oh, the irony!

Regardless, you endure!coping with the holidays

..and endure you will, especially if you follow the pre-family gathering preparation advice discussed below.

Holidays in Recovery:

Personal Experience Stepping out of the Spotlight

Even when I was using, I tried my best to attend holiday functions with my family. It is important to show your family you love them, even if you are strung out. However, do not get completely fucked up before seeing your family. They will know and you will not escape the spotlight. If you do this, none of these techniques will save you from distress.

Side Note on Common Sense

Photo by Christopher Farrugia on Unsplash

I shouldn’t have to include this section, but here are some, should-be-common sense tips that are extremely important.

I hate that I have to say this but, DO NOT steal from your family members or ask for money at gatherings. You will not be invited back next year and, when you decide you finally want to stop using, you will have lost the respect of the people who could be your best advocates.

If you are high, stop by, give hugs, eat some turkey, and leave. Do not put your family through hours of watching you nod out at the dinner table.

Some may not agree with this advice. If this is you, please consider this. While I was using, I attended holiday functions with my family. When the functions went smoothly, I would start to feel confident I could ask for help from my family. These positive interactions pushed me toward making better decisions.

Holidays in Recovery- Preparation

Before attending your next family function this holiday season, you have some studying to do!

Step 1: Make a call.

Call your cousin (or whatever family member) who loves to gossip. Usually, this family member knows way too much about your other family members’ lives, the good, the bad, all the drama. We all have at least one family member that feeds on this kind of information. (Important: Refrain from divulging any information about yourself that you don’t want to be repeated.)

Step 2: Gather Intel.

Ask this family member questions about each family member planning to attend the holiday event you have RSVPed to. Commit this information to memory. Once you are familiar with the current lives of each of these people, you can be on the offense.

Step 3: Smile, Nod and Change the Damn Subject!

When Great Aunt Joan, two sheets to the wind, starts pressing you for details on why such a smart person like yourself would use drugs, requesting a minute by minute agenda of what you do each day to stay clean, you vaguely give her an answer. You are not obligated to explain each detail of your daily recovery routine. By vague I mean, focus on one or two healthy habits you have picked up and explain them in a succinct manner.

Immediately after you answer, ask Aunt Joan a question about herself. People love talking about themselves and, remember, you have done your homework. After all, gossiping cousin Glen gave you all the spicy details on Aunt Joan’s new business venture. This is where your preparation comes in handy

When you ask how she plans to implement a massage parlor into her marijuana dispensary she will totally forget about what she was asking you. She will be so caught off guard that you have been paying attention to the parts of her life that are important to her, that you will be in the clear! Situation avoided.

Arming yourself with a little bit of detail about each family member will keep the spotlight off your drug use and you will control how much or how little you want or feel comfortable with sharing about your recovery.

That’s all for today, folks!

Below, I have relisted these tips included in Part 1 of the Coping with Holidays in Recovery series. Refer to the original article for explanations as to why these strategies are crucial to your recovery and for detailed explanations on how to implement them.

Tips for Coping with the Holidays in Recovery

1. SHOW UP, even if you have not stopped using completely.

2. AVOID talking recovery with family members.

3. PLAN your responses.

4. LET IT GO immediately.

5. PREPARE conversation starters and diversions.

For another helpful article, visit SMART Recovery Holiday Challenges in Addiction Recovery.

If you need tips to get off opiates before the holidays, check out Over the Counter Medications for Opiate Withdrawal and Top 15 Natural Remedies for Heroin Withdrawal -All Needles to Au Naturel.

If you have any questions, comments, concerns about your next family event, drop a line in the comment section below and we will respond ASAP. Good luck and happy holidays fam.

Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

34 comments on “Holidays in Recovery- Beating Bah Humbug

  1. Thanks for sharing! I definitely do have stronger cravings around holidays, but I never really realized that family could absolutely be attributed to this.

  2. Hey, Thank for writing on Holidays in Recovery. Your article is very helpful for me because my Grand father is in recovery and I found what you say here sounds so familiar. In my opinion your article will help everyone. So I decided to share with my friends and family members. Thank you very much for helping me to understand me how I should behave and be supportive of people who are undergoing recovery.


    1. Thank you Parveen for reading and for sharing.  I wish your uncle a smooth recovery.  You are a blessing to him. 

  3. Wow Ana, what an amazing and inspirational post.  I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must be for recovering addicts to endure the stresses of the festive seasons – your article has truly opened my eyes.  Makes all my First World issues seem pretty insignificant.

    One thing that really stood out for me was how supportive your family was in helping your recovery, even attending their own therapy sessions. Very brave to admit that they may have been part of the problem by enabling your addiction.  What advice would you give family members in terms of how they behave or act if they suspect a family member may be using drugs already or maybe suffering from depression and could turn to drugs or alcohol as an answer to their pain? 

    1. I am extremely fortunate to have a family who was willing to do the work required to help me recover.  Most families, including mine at one point, have no idea they are making the situation worse.  It is important to understand, as a family member, that you are most likely not doing any of this intentionally.  It is part of the patterns we become comfortable with as each member falls into their ‘role’ in the family unit.  A good family therapist will help identify problem areas and work to mend them.  

      To your question, if you suspect drug use, the worst thing you could do is get angry or say anything that could make the suspected user feel ashamed.  Trust me, we are beating ourselves up enough anyway.  

      Compassion, love, and taking the time to listen is the best way to help someone struggling.  Not only will they respect your advice, they will feel comfortable coming to you when they make the decision to change their behavior.  You could save their life.  

      In both cases, substance abuse and/or depression, a therapist is a great third party to give advice to ALL parties involved.  

      Just remember, take a breath, have a think, and hug the people you care about. Patience is key. Try not to blame yourself for your loved one not wanting to change.  With love and support, they will eventually.   

      Substance abuse has claimed too many lives, and, more often than not, the deceased has been alienated from their family at the time of overdose. 

  4. A great read. I have a former Heroin user living at my place. 

    She still smokes, but I can live with that. Reconciling with her family seems to have been one of her hardest obstacles. But it is understandable knowing her story. 

    Her slide from the Corporate world to walking the streets, and finally some prison time, still plays on her mind and she finds it hard to comprehend, but she is working on it and leaving it in the past. She knows that cannot be changed. She now has a good job, and looking forward with confidence that she can overcome any obstacle thrown her way.

    1. I love hearing stories like this.  Although she probably feels like a failure most of the time, falling so far, she should know she is a miracle.  I started using my last semester of law school so I am in a unique position to understand the guilt she must be feeling. I hope she knows how strong she truly is. Its hard work to have a career but it is even harder work to recover and it sounds like she has done both.  What an inspiration.  Please give her to URL to this site.  Maybe she would be willing to connect or write a guest post? 

      Thanks Michael!

  5. Oh wow, just reading everything you’ve written here brings back a lot of memories and past emotions. Some good and some bad, but enough to really remind me of how far I’ve come. 

    Dealing with family at Christmas time is still a trigger for me, but I don’t drink excessively the way I used to in order to cope with it. I used to get totally wasted on rum or smoke like a chimney just to handle people, but recovery and spiritual healing (philosophy and meditation) has taught me a lot about handling myself in tough situations.

    That all being said, you offer some great advice here. I think others can learn a lot from this, and I wish everyone a happy holiday season too.

    1. Happy to hear you have made positive changes you can feel proud about!  There are some wonderful ways to use spiritual healing in continued recovery and it sounds like you have done the work to keep your head on straight.  Thank you for sharing a bit about yourself and hope you had a great holiday!

  6. All holiday seasons are to be enjoyed and the one thing I keep praying for is for me to have that holiday churpy spirit. I am kinda cold about all holidays; I’ve noticed. However, when there are children involved, on must always keep their spirit up in joy, charm and gratitude. 

  7. This topic is so helpful for people in recovery. Not many are willing to talk about it openly and you have actually laid out all the points in such detail. I would like to share it with one of my friends who is actually going through a similar situation.

    I myself learned so much about how I should behave and be supportive of people who are undergoing recovery. Thanks for being so helpful.

    1. Shrey, thank you for reading and sharing with your friend.  I am so happy that family and friends of recovering substance abusers are also reading these articles. It may be directed towards those in recovery but it can be very helpful for friends and family alike. I hope you have a wonderful holiday and a great New year!

  8. Hiya Ana

    I was blown away by your article! Your honesty and bravery are truly humbling and what you are doing here is very special. Two days ago my best friend lost her brother to overdose and I wonder if he could have been helped by something like this. I am lucky in so much as ‘hard drugs’ have only ever been on the fringes of my life – I have never directly experienced them either personally or within my family but I have seen the devastating effect they can have on everyone who is in contact with them. 

    I smoke weed medicinally and have had trouble before where I could have lost my children because I wouldn’t lie about it. I would love to give up cigarettes and have tried many times, many ways to stop, I think a lot of the tips you share could help me to finally ditch them. I have bookmarked your site and will be returning.

    Can I ask what ‘smoke the tray’ means? Do you have any UK contacts you could recommend for therapy? It’s ok if you don’t, I think this is a US site, I’m just asking because I’m in the UK myself and if you don’t ask you don’t get, do you! 

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences online, I think you will touch a lot of people and help many, God bless you for that, I wish you the best for your continued recovery, krs PurpleLioness 

    1. Purple Lioness-

      Condolences for your and your best friend’s loss.  It is devastating to lose someone to drugs and something you never fully move on from.  I feel the questioning about whether more could have been done is always there, even though in all reality the person who passed NEVER intended to put that stress on the shoulders of ones they love. It is important to keep that in mind.  

      I love that weed is finally decriminalized in so many places and that it is finally being recognized for it’s medicinal purposes.  Now, we need to focus on clearing the records of those who have marijuana charges so they can stop being affected by them.  You are lucky to have kept your children as I knowany who lost their children solely because they could not stop smoking weed to either treat anxiety, pain or to get off hard drugs.  There are some wonderful marijuana based rehab centers popping up around the world and hey are having success that no one could have imagined.  

      I used to smoke a pack aday of cigarettes,but I have switched to vaping.  It has actually improved my health. I have stopped getting that awful chest cold that is inevitable every year when I smoke cigarettes and I am able to walk longer distanceswithout getting winded! Check out How to get off Drugs- The Power of Imagination for some tips on quitting.  Although it is directed toward getting off drugs, cigarettes require the same type of approach to quitting. My best advice is to try giving up your morning cigarette. If you avoid spiking nicotine levels in your blood first thing in the morning, you will lower your cravings significantly throughout the day. It really worked for me.  

      ***WARNING: skip this paragraph if easily triggered. ***Smoking a tray’ is a method of getting high where a user takes a piece of tinfoil, drops a blob of heroin or a pill (without binders) like Percocet or oxycodone, on to the foil(tray).  The user then holds a lighter nder the tinfoil until the substance starts melting and smoke appears.  A straw is used to inhale the smoke from the tray while the substance slides down the foil.  

      Unfortunately, I do not have any recovery contacts in the u.k.yet, but I will be doing some research and speaking to some people who may. If I find something worthwhile, I will let you know. 

      Thank you for reading and for some wonderful questions.  Have a happy holiday and hope to hear from you again! 


      P.S. Keep us posted on how the quitting cigarettes goes. You got this! Small steps to BIG goals. 🙂

  9. You have certainly pulled no punches with this article, you have highlighted many important issues for anyone who is in the difficult position of trying to stay sober and drug free over any family/holiday period.

    It must be so stressful trying to get through the days and do right for yourself when there is so much pressure around you.

    Great post, very useful and motivating.

    1. It can be stressful without the correct tools to handle risky situations. I am hoping this article helps equip some to conquer the holidays, happy and healthy. Importantly, the user has to remember to keep the attention on the family instead of on his past behavior. Holidays are not the time nor the place for negativity and criticism.  Positivity and love may sound hippie dippie but they are two of the most powerful motivators for a user trying to get and stay clean. Have a wonderful holiday and thank you for stopping by.  

  10. Thanks so much for sharing this. I actually have a relative who is still recovering and so much of what you say here sounds so familiar! I think this will really help so many people and so much more of this information needs to be shared and available to the public. I will be sure to pass this on 

    1. Mike thank you for passing this on. I hope we are helping at least one person! That makes everything worth it. Happy holidays and thank you so much for stopping by.  

  11. Wow! Thank you for this amazing article!

    It’s true what you write here, sometimes I personally always become the “Yes Man” type. Because of the difficulty to say no. And in the end I myself felt very tired. In addition, my time and needs were neglected.

    There is truth in not being a Yes Man. I also until now continue to learn to say “No” in subtle ways. 

    But, is there any suggestion from you for me to feel “If other people invite us, aren’t we special to them, why don’t we pay it forward to make him special?” I am confused. 

    But thank you so much for this post (bookmarked website). I feel blessed. 🙂

    1. Great question! I chuckled when reading this because your dialogue sounds so familiar.  The exact same thoughts go through my head all the time. 

      Here is the reality though: if you are invited somewhere and you arrive overwhelmed or you have to use or drink to get though the party, you are actually disrespecting the host. Not only are you committing a disservice to yourself,  you are certainly not sending the message that that person is special to you, unless you can give your full attention and your healthy self to your host for the entire gathering.  

      If you get to the point where you are getting overwhelmed, politely say you already have made plans on that day(even if your plans are to sit on your couch and watch elf and a die hard Marathon).  Apologize and flip a few weeks ahead in your daytimer.  Schedule a day, after the holidays, to get together with this person for lunch. You will probably get more face time with this person this way anyway and they will feel even more special that you are trying to get together just the two of you. 🙂 

      I really hope this makes sense.  Let me know if you have any further questions.  

      Happy holidays! Thanks so much for reading and bookmarking. 


  12. Great job on this blog!!
    I always do seem to get cravings around the holidays but never really understood why. It absolutely can be attributed to the time spent with family so I thank you for shedding some light on that for me!
    My family doesn’t ever bring up anything related to my poor life decisions at social gatherings. The deepest they’ll pry is asking about job and girlfriends. Whenever I don’t have a job, it’s very nerve-wracking for me because I’m afraid they are judging me in their heads. I’m grateful I have a job today because I can speak confidently about what I do with my time.
    I think it’s smart to plan responses when it comes to questions that can catch you off guard. Sometimes I get nervous just imagining all the possible questions I could get, but when I actually play the tape through and put the words together in my head, I can be more prepared in social situations.
    Thanks for sharing this, keep up the good work!!

  13. Hey Ana,

    First off, your story is very inspirational. My two fat thumbs up for your honesty and ability to not only speak loudly about your troubles but to use that to help others.
    I can imagine it takes some guts to do all that.
    In truth, often there are relatives that I also don’t want to see on holidays. Any idea how to hide from them haha 🙂

    1. Asen- my method of hiding turned out to bite me in the ass so you don’t want to take my advice. Nowadays I try to keep in mind how short life is and how important family is. I hope you enjoy your holidays!

  14. I have never heard of anyone give people tips on how to deal with recovery during the holiday and reading your post at the beginning, I had a feeling of pain that this people would really go through before they can enjoy their own holiday. After reading it, if feels like your tips are helpful and that there is hope for this people. I think that it is important that I share this post. I have a friend who is recovering currently and your tips will help.

    1. Thank you, John. Recovery is tough for the former user, but it is just as tough on the family.  We all go through it together. So, I hope those who are in recovery can find a way to enjoy their holidays with he people that love them.  Sometimes it takes a little work to avoid catastrophe tho.  Thanks so much for sharing and stopping by! 


  15. This is infact a very good post with some very good information here. You know there are so many people who have actually missed out on Christmas and other holidays as well. I feel like this post is going to serve as some very good help to this type of people. I really amire the work you put into doing it. I am going to share this post.

    1. Henderson- thank you so much. It means a lot to me that people like yourself, who I assume are not in recovery, can still see the good in what we are trying to do here.  Thank you so much for sharing and happy holidays! 


  16. I am sure a lot of people will relate to your article as many have trouble to deal with relatives during holiday seasons for various reasons. Actually many don’t admit it and pretend like everything is cool but there are only putting the problem under the rag. In such situations articles are good but for me the best way to deal with it it to consult a therapist. But I can understand why many people avoid doing so.

    1. I completely agree with you.  This is why I included contact information for a therapist in the article. Usually, recovering users are already seeing a therapist and I would hope they are bringing some of these topics up.  However, when I was seeing a therapist, I could talk until I was blue in the face and still not feel like the therapist could ever truly 💯 relate to me.  Nothing compared to the advice I received from others in recovery themselves.  So that is why I share these articles and talk about my own experiences,any of which I am not proud of.  I also studied psychology at University so, even though I am not a practicing therapist(did not interest me for a career), I do have knowledge of the subject.  

      Thank you for reading! 

  17. Thanks a lot for such an amazing article. For me this time of the year is the most waited. for my recovery. With a full year of stress  I’ want just to stay out of the spotlight. I love how you describe this step here.

    I just want to stay away from this kind o family members who want to press me all the time, drinks  to much and after that i feel like I am more stressed. Can i be more stressed in my recovery time? It seems yes. 

    As you said here, i love me too staying with my family but i want a chill environment, watching all day movies and eat oranges. This is my kind of holiday recovery. 

    Thanks again for this article. I hope to see more of this. Wish you all the best! 

    1. Yes! I can relate wholeheartedly.  Netflix and chill, and oranges are great too! Thank you for reading and I wish you luck this holiday season.  Don’t let anyone stress you out.  Be you and be wonderful.  Happy holidays 🙂

  18. hi. here are some thoughts of mine. There actually may be family members who feel hurt and resentful about how you’ve behaved in the past and then choose the holiday meal as a place to air their grievances. infact No one knows better than you do the shame that comes with this kind of conversation. the best way to handle this will be to Briefly remind people that you are sorry for the past but that you are in recovery now. It’s important not to be in denial. Then change the subject to something else. it think it might help.

    1. Absolutely.  So, during recovery, resentments, anger, hurt feelings and judgment all rear their ugly heads. My point is not to deny any of these feelings. Most of the time the family is 💯 entitled to these feelings.  

      However, holiday family gatherings are not an appropriate time no venue for these discussions.  It is unfair to everyone in attendence, not just the recovering user who has done the work in recovery to gain the invitatoin, but it but other family members who may feel very uncomfortable around this type of conversation, as well.  

      I do not suggest denying any sort of behaviors or incidences that happened before the user got clean, but instead, it have proposed a method that has worked for me and others in recovery that have tried it. seems to be effective for.  For example, if a family member brings up the time you let your tweeker buddy Rob her jewelery, simply give a brief apology, briefly explain what healthy habits you have picked up in recovery (for example, you are now only hanging around friends you met at church group or you have been working extra hours to pay her back for that mistake)  then change the subject. Simple as that. 

      Changing the subject to something about the other person because is a surefire way to make sure tthe spotlight has shifted off of your drug habit.  After a couple glasses of wine, it is hard for that other person to resist talking about themselves! There are definitely other methods to do this, but this seems to be one that works for me.  

       I hope this explains things in a little more depth. I want to be very clear about one thing: 

      I do not think it is healthy for, nor do I condone, a recovering user not to address the mistakes he has made towards his family while using. However, hopefully with a good therapist or recovery coach, this can be done after the holidays and in a safe place with only the parties involved.  

      Thank you so much for your input and for reading this article.


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