By Dr. Harold C. Urschel III, MD, MMA
Chief Medical Strategist
Spotting Signs of a Problem in a Loved One and How to be Sensitive to Family Members in Recovery
With many families gathering together for celebrations, the holidays are a special time of year. At Enterhealth – a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment company – we understand that this period can also be one of the most stressful times of the year. That holiday stress can drive people to self-medicate, whether it’s with alcohol, marijuana, prescription pills or other substances.
The holidays are also a good time of year to really observe and evaluate family members, especially if you have concerns that someone may have a problem with substance abuse. Signs to look out for include: dents in a car, odd changes in behavior, particularly secretive behavior, changes in peer groups, and difficulty sleeping or staying awake. While none of these signs on their own are definite signals that someone may have a problem, it’s when they start to stack up that you should be concerned.
If you have a loved one who you know is a recovering alcoholic or addict, your family needs to understand that no alcohol or drugs should be around them at any family gatherings or celebrations. We recommend that patients in recovery wait at least a year before being around alcohol or drug use. You want the family celebrations and bonding to be in substance-safe environments, and people in recovery already get enough temptation from things like commercials, social media, etc. If family members cannot abstain from a substance to support a loved one in recovery, then maybe that person should consider whether or not he or she has a problem themselves.
If you or a loved one is an alcoholic, here are five tips that can help during the holiday season:
Tip #1 – Spend Time with Sober People
Alcohol recovery can be tough, especially during the holidays. It’s important to be around positive and sober people for support. Observing them will motivate you to emulate their behavior of not drinking.
Tip #2 – The “I’ll Take a Soda” Approach
You can have a drink this season – a nice cold soda or some other non-alcoholic beverage. While it’s hard to avoid alcohol when you’re at a holiday party, you can combat it by substituting another beverage in its place. However, do not use nonalcoholic beer or wine, as they contain traces of alcohol and can set off certain brain areas and reactivate intense brain cravings for alcohol.
Tip #3 – Manage Your Stress
Stress is one of various factors that can increase your need to reach out for a bottle of alcohol in order to cope. Remember, you can help manage your drinking problem by managing your stress. Find other ways to deal with stress, such as talking with a friend or family member, exercise, or have a set time in the day where all you do is relax.
Tip #4 – Indulge Yourself
It’s hard for many to stop drinking, especially during the holiday season. You can benefit from not yielding to the temptation of drinking by rewarding yourself for every time that you don’t drink. Reward yourself with a small gift, candy bar or anything else that brings you happiness.
Tip #5 – Have a “Plan B”
When battling an addiction, it’s important to have a plan just in case you find yourself in an environment where there is alcohol present and you cannot handle the temptation. Having a plan and knowing how you’re going to handle the situation will help you significantly. Tell a family member and/or close friend about your recovery process, and call them in case of an emergency to help you in those situations.
Sometimes, it takes more than helpful tips and family support to remain sober during the holidays. Enterhealth, a Dallas-based alcohol and drug addiction recovery center, offers a customized medically-based model of addiction treatment that reverses the effects of substance abuse on the brain.
To learn more about how Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence help with addiction, as well as more helpful tips for staying sober this holiday season, please call 855.393.8656 for more information, or visit our website at enterhealth.com.