Why families of people in recovery should plan ahead this holiday season

Next week kicks off the Thanksgiving holiday, which is a season when many may overindulge. And for people in recovery, it may be difficult to maintain sobriety if they find themselves surrounded by substances they would rather avoid.

A crisis coach offering advice suggests preparing ahead of time for situations that can challenge sobriety. Families should be understanding and supportive, and people in recovery can plan to set boundaries and to practice self-care.

“If Johnny feels unsafe, he needs to be able to say 911 to the family,” said Scott H. Silverman, a crisis coach and family navigator.

“Let them know that, ‘Look, this is not a safe environment for me right now. I need to go to a meeting or I’m going to go for a walk,'” he advised.

Families should do everything possible to be supportive, “And Johnny needs to express his feelings, his fears and his thoughts before he goes home,” Silverman said.

Silverman is author of “The Opioid Epidemic: What You Don’t Know Will Destroy Your Family and Your Life.”

He said gathering over the holidays can be stressful even under the best of circumstances without the “perfect storm” of stressors, including the pandemic, quarantines, home schooling, job losses and catastrophic events that have led to soaring rates of alcohol use and drug overdoses.

“We’re all coming together for the first time physically in one, maybe even two years. So the sensitivity levels are going to be very, very high. And I really caution families to try to use both their ears first before they use their mouth,” he said.

People who anticipate potential for problematic behavior or that a loved one is still chronically using or self-medicating can discuss it before the visit.

“Talk with Johnny honestly. Tell him how you feel and say, ‘Look, this holiday, we’d like to do it a little differently. Are you willing and open to listen to some ideas and suggestions?'” Silverman said.

Families also might consider having the holiday visit happen virtually.

If you or someone you care about is concerned about increased use of alcohol or other substances, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a few suggestions that may help.

Also, folks can get confidential help 24/7/365 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National (SAMHSA) Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The helpline offers referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations and helps callers order free publications and other information.
For those who prefer texting, you can text TALK to the Crisis Text Line 24/7 at 741-741 for confidential support via text message.

You can search by ZIP code to find behavioral health treatment services on SAMHSA’s website.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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