5 Ideas For Navigating Family Dynamics During the Holidays

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People look forward to getting together during the holiday season, but not every event is full of blissful reunions and happy times. Family dynamics during the holidays can be stressful and knowing how to handle the stress can make or break time spent together. When a family member’s addiction to alcohol or drugs becomes the focal point during the holidays, it can be particularly difficult to navigate. We’ve got five ideas for how to navigate family dynamics during the holiday season. 

Set Realistic Expectations for Holiday Get-togethers

While everyone hopes for a holiday season in which family members and other loved ones get along great and create nothing but treasured memories, life doesn’t always work that way. Before you travel or welcome people to your home for holiday get-togethers, ask yourself what realistic expectations you can set for each event. 

If you have relationships that are easy and loving, enjoy those all you can. If you know that you are fulfilling obligations more than doing something you truly enjoy, consider what the best-case scenario may be for each situation. This helps keep you from being disappointed and frustrated when the outcome is not something joyous or positive. Think about the difference between how you’d like things to go during various events and how you can realistically expect them to go.  

In the case of dealing with someone who has a substance use disorder and does not yet want to get help, adjust your expectations for encounters with them. If they usually act in irresponsible or abusive ways due to their addiction whenever you see them, remind yourself that likely has not changed.  

Establish Boundaries

When you know that certain people you see during the holidays sometimes cross a line, decide what boundaries you want to set and stick to them. For example, if a certain topic is off-limits, like your love life or finances, or you don’t want to be pressured to commit to a lot of events, be clear about this to those involved. When people understand where you have set a limit, they are more likely to respect it. In addition, it’s important that you respect boundaries that others have established.

When addiction plays a part in family dynamics during the holidays, boundaries can be especially important. If someone you love puts their alcohol or drug use ahead of the priorities or safety of the family, let them know this is not a boundary they can cross. Remember you have the right not to supply substances to someone who abuses them, as well as the right to exit a party or home where their substance abuse affects you or others. 

Provide Support to Someone in Recovery

If you have a family member who has chosen recovery, keep an eye out for them during the holidays. This season can be challenging for anyone, but particularly if they are fighting the urge to relapse. The holidays can make people feel lonely or that no one understands them. Let a loved one in recovery know that you are proud of their efforts to stay sober and let them know they can bend your ear any time they need to talk.

Many holiday events feature an array of alcoholic beverages and some allow drug usage, too. If you know someone who needs a sober buddy, offer to be that person. If they have someone else to hang out with who also chooses not to indulge in drinking or using drugs, it can empower them to keep from slipping up. 

Use Sober Tools to Cope With Family Dynamics During the Holidays 

If you are navigating the holidays while in recovery, make a list of sober tools you can turn to when you feel stressed or tempted to drink or use drugs. Sober tools can include:

  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Yoga sessions
  • Positive affirmations
  • Volunteer work in the community
  • A balance of good nutrition and allowing yourself holiday treats
  • Checking in with a sober buddy
  • Contacting your therapist or other treatment team member

Remember that your sobriety tops all other priorities, no matter what time of year. Use your sober tools and, should you find a situation is potentially damaging to your mental health or sobriety, give yourself permission to exit the scene. 

Seek Professional Help for Family Dynamics During the Holidays

Discard the assumption that seeking help for addiction has to wait until the holidays are over. Often during the holidays, a person’s need for help comes to light because of the family coming together. Many treatment facilities offer outpatient programs that allow someone to get help without having to enter a residential program. This can include detox, regular outpatient, intensive outpatient, and partial hospitalization programs.

Part of addiction treatment focuses not only on individual therapy but also family therapy. A person who enters outpatient treatment can include loved ones in family therapy sessions that help address family dynamics during the holidays and throughout the year. Everyone can learn to communicate more effectively and establish healthy boundaries. They can come together to provide positive support to help their loved ones stay sober.

Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles

The holidays can be a joyous time of year but they can also be stressful. This is particularly when a loved one’s addiction to alcohol or drug comes into focus. We provide young adults with a holistic addiction and mental health treatment program that empowers them to face the future with a new attitude. We focus on all areas of their lives, including education and career, which sets them up for a successful new life in recovery. Contact Launch Centers now and let the holidays be the time your family can start over.

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

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Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

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Eric Chaghouri, MD


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Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

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