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How families cope with substance abuse during the holidays: an expert’s advice.

How Families Cope With Substance Abuse During The Holidays: An Expert’s Advice

by, Patsy Reed, MA, LADC, LPCC

If you have ever loved someone who is an addict you know all too well the complex emotions that can occur while trying to encourage their sobriety. Especially difficult is holiday time. This time of year brings families together (that can be a positive or a negative for many) and for families struggling to support a loved one with addiction, there is hope and support for you, too.

Patsy Reed is an addiction specialist with a dual degree from the world-renowned Hazelden Betty Ford Clinic here in Minnesota. Let’s hear from an expert on how families can cope with addiction during the holiday season.

What can therapy do for families who are struggling with addiction/substance abuse? 

If you have a loved one struggling with substance abuse issues, it is vitally important that you take the time to educate yourself and learn as much as possible about the disease of addiction.  Addiction is known as a family disease because all family members are affected in some way.  Addiction is a treatable disease with many options for treatment. Therapy can offer individuals and families the education, support and treatment that will allow everyone in the family to better understand this disease and begin to heal.

One aspect of counseling is family therapy – this is considered to be a vital part of a loved ones’ treatment and can aid the family as a whole to recover and reconcile.  Counseling can help family members develop new coping skills and make positive changes, which in turn, allows family member’s to heal from the trauma caused by addiction and mental health issues.

Why are the holidays a hard time for many who have substance abuse issues?

The holidays can be tough for those who struggle with the disease of addiction as urges and cravings tend to be paramount. For many, this time of year elicits bittersweet and often times difficult memories and emotions. As a result, the temptation to drink, use, or self-medicate lies in wait, even for those with years of sobriety.

It is essential that individuals with the disease of addiction have prepared a plan for the holidays, specifically celebrations, parties and family gatherings (ex: attend an event for a short period of time, or bring a sober peer).

Addiction is a life long disease.  It is a primary, chronic and progressive disease that impacts all facets of an individuals’ life including: physical health, mental health, relationships, employment, finances and daily functioning. Since going to therapy (either individual therapy or family therapy) is sometimes impossible to do, online mental health and substance abuse treatment can be a welcome option for many families seeking extra support….this time of year elicits bittersweet and often times difficult memories and emotions…” Along with several Synergy eTherapists who are trained in addiction and can help individuals and families at an outpatient level of care, there are many resources available that can also help provide much needed treatment and support.

Here are a few links:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) :

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):


Please don’t wait to seek out support. The earlier the better. You are not alone.  Schedule your free consultation today and start learning more about how you can help yourself and your family cope and heal from this difficult disease.

Patsy Reed, MA, LADC, LPCC. To schedule your FREE consultation with her, please click HERE.

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