Delaying Your Loved One’s Addiction Treatment Over The Holidays Can Be Dangerous

Addiction treatment expert advises families to act now!

We all want to be festive and celebrate the holidays with family around us. However, alcohol and substance use disorders can ramp up over the holiday season resulting in a greater need for treatment.

An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

In a study by Alcohol Monitoring Systems on alcohol consumption by high-risk drivers during the holiday season, violations jumped 33 percent compared to the rest of the year, and excessive drinking and increased rates of DUI injuries and deaths occurred even despite the drivers’ knowledge that they were being monitored.

“If you have a loved one who needs to get help for an alcohol or drug addiction, the time to act is now and not after the holidays,” according to Trish Caldwell, a family therapist for over 25 years and the corporate director of Family Services for Recovery Centers of America. “There are so many triggers at this time of year that can push a person in active addiction into a downward spiral or a relapse that can be deadly. The pain of thinking about their loved one in treatment during the holidays can feel overwhelming, but for so many families the pain of their loved one being home can be even scarier if they continue to use. Getting the help they deserve now lets the family begin to heal and move towards creating meaningful lives in recovery well beyond the holidays.”

Caldwell says that families delay getting needed treatment for their loved ones because of:

  1. Guilt and sadness of being without each other over the holidays. The thought of not being together over the holidays or the thought of your loved one in treatment, can feel overwhelming. Guilt of being apart can lead to the hope that, just for the holidays, they can “stay sober.” Unfortunately, that is not how a disease operates, and often times the symptoms worsen over the holidays. But your loved one and you having a safe and sober holiday can be so powerful and staying connected in treatment can be so rewarding. During the holidays RCA offers so many wonderful opportunities to stay connected and rebuild the hope needed to build a life of recovery.
  2. The belief that their loved one “can do it on their own.” With addiction the brain’s set points for pleasure and reward have been changed by Substance Use Disorder, so loved ones cannot do it on their own. Without treatment— diseases progress, and this one is no different. Despite their genuine desire to want to remain sober during the holidays, it is a time that has the highest risk associated with use. It is important to know that those in active addiction will often say anything to continue their ability to use, and your loving support and encouragement for them to seek treatment may be exactly what they need to take the leap into their recovery.
  3. Fear of being judged or misunderstood by family and friends. Parents and spouses may want to hide their loved one’s addiction and not have to “tell everyone where they are” when they miss a family tradition. Families may feel embarrassed or fear being judged by other family members who don’t understand that alcoholism or drug abuse are diseases that need treatment like other medical conditions.