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How to Help Your Loved One Avoid Holiday Depression Triggers

A young woman sits near a Christmas tree with a forlorn look on her face.



The holidays are a time to get together with loved ones and celebrate with food, drink and gifts.

What could be wrong with that?

Actually, for those in recovery, the holidays can present a minefield of problems. And one of the best ways we can help our loved ones in recovery is to be aware of any possible issues.

Understanding Depression During the Holidays

The first—and perhaps biggest—problem with the holidays is the assumption that they should be fun and meaningful for everyone.

When someone doesn’t share in that giddy holiday joy, it can be a very isolating and lonely place.

And there are legitimate reasons why those in recovery might not be as happy as everyone else seems to think they should be, including the following:

  • Addiction takes a big toll on relationships with family and friends. Rebuilding those relationships takes time. The holidays may put a spotlight on strained relationships.
  • While others are indulging in eggnog, wine, champagne and who knows what else, those in recovery obviously cannot. But the really hard part is that—unlike other social situations—there is a lot of pressure to stay at the celebration, even if it’s stressful and uncomfortable.
  • One of the biggest sources of stress in life is problems with money. While our culture glorifies holiday spending, the truth is that it places a big strain on many of us—and that can result in a great deal of anxiety.
  • The holidays disrupt normal routines. While everyone in recovery is different, many find that daily routines are both comforting and helpful. The holidays take these stress-relievers away—and often replace them with stress-inducing situations.

Managing Holiday Depression

Once you recognize that the holidays may be difficult for your loved one in recovery, what can you do to make things better?

First of all, don’t pressure them to attend every single holiday get-together. You may think it will make your loved one feel better to socialize, but that’s not always the case, especially if alcohol or drugs will be present. Listen to what they’re telling you—and help them plan a social schedule that works for their unique situation.

At the same time, encourage your loved one to continue activities that help manage stress. Maybe suggest a morning hike before a Christmas day get-together. You could also suggest leaving the party early with your loved one, heading home and enjoying a holiday movie and hot chocolate together.

It’s also extremely important to encourage your loved one to seek help if needed. If they already have a therapist, it can’t hurt to proactively schedule an appointment during the holidays. If your loved one attends AA or some other type of meeting, encourage them to keep doing so over the holidays.

About the Raleigh House

The Raleigh House is a treatment center located in Denver that believes everyone deserves the chance to live a free, happy and peaceful life. We don’t just help people get sober; we help them learn the skills needed to live a good life. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about our drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.

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