Tag Archive: Holidays

  1. Prioritizing Your Teen’s Recovery During the Holidays

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    Prioritizing Your Teen’s Recovery During the Holidays

    The holiday season is often a time to spend with extended family making memories. Spending time with extended family can also be a negative experience for some. For a teen in recovery, the holidays can be particularly triggering. Finding a balance between making memories and supporting your teen’s recovery can be particularly challenging, but ultimately, this year, your teen’s recovery may need to come first.

    When Holidays With Extended Family Are Unhappy

    Even in the healthiest of families, the pressures of the holidays can lead to tension. In families where there is dysfunction, there is often a lot more than tension happening when extended family gets together. For many adults, the unhappy memories fade, and the good memories remain. However, for a teen in recovery, many of the aspects of family gatherings around the holidays can be triggering and lead to relapse.

    First of all, being aware of your teen’s triggers regarding the holidays and extended family is essential. Some aspects of family holiday gatherings may be obvious, such as increased drinking or other substance use, or loud or escalated conversations that are uncomfortable or may even become violent. There may also be triggers related to specific family members or past trauma. In addition, the long hours, travel, and sleeping arrangements may also create anxiety for your teen around spending time with family during the holidays.

    Holiday Traditions vs. Your Teen’s Wellness

    Most families have traditions of spending time with extended family during the holidays. To do otherwise is not something that is even considered. When your recovering teen expresses concerns about travel, holiday traditions, or extended family, though, you may want to reconsider.

    Family holiday traditions and the opportunity to see loved ones can seem very important. Certainly, the media and holiday movies place a lot of importance on extended family and the holidays. You may feel a lot of pressure from your extended family to keep these traditions, too. On the other hand, is keeping a tradition worth sacrificing your teen’s wellness? Is keeping a tradition, appeasing the wishes of loved ones, or keeping up appearances as important as the health and well-being of your own child?

    What It Means to Put Family First

    The holidays can create a lot of situations that test your priorities. For many families, the opportunity to gather as an extended family only comes during the holiday season and thus can seem like the highest priority. While this is an opportunity that can be difficult to miss, the concept of putting family first has a different meaning when your child is in recovery.

    Putting family first during the holidays may mean that you need to reconsider your holiday traditions and put your teen’s recovery needs ahead of spending time with extended family. During early recovery, listening to your child and supporting them in their needs can make a world of difference for them. Particularly during the holidays, when being in recovery is so difficult for most people, putting your teen ahead of holiday traditions can prevent a relapse.

    Setting Boundaries With Extended Family to Protect Your Child

    For those families who still choose to spend time with extended family during the holidays, setting boundaries can help protect your child. For example, you may wish to stay in a neutral location, such as a hotel, to give yourselves a safe space to retreat to. You might insist that no substances are consumed around your child, or that there be no raised voices or fighting.

    If there are specific family members who trigger your child, do not allow them to be alone with your teen. Another boundary may be that you observe a certain bedtime as a family to support your child in getting enough sleep. These boundaries let your family know that your teen’s wellness is important. If they choose not to observe them, then they miss out on the opportunity to spend time with your family.

    Creating New Holiday Traditions of Wellness

    All traditions begin somewhere. While the custom of spending time with your extended family during the holidays may have positive aspects, chances are that there are many unhealthy elements as well. These are traditions that do not need to be handed down to the next generation.

    Your family has the opportunity to create new traditions of wellness. While supporting your teen in their recovery, you can find traditions that include sharing with others or demonstrating gratitude or kindness to others. There are plenty of people who do not even have a family to spend the holidays with, and sharing with them can help improve your child’s recovery rather than risk relapse. Even just simply creating healthy new traditions with your own family unit can help protect your teen’s recovery. Having a child who is still in recovery is the best gift you can give your family this holiday season.

    Prioritizing your teen’s recovery above extended family visits can make or break your holidays. Finding the right balance between making happy memories and preventing a relapse may be your most important challenge this holiday season. At Sustain Recovery, we emphasize the importance of family in the recovery process. Our extended residential treatment program for adolescents with addiction and mental health diagnoses in Irvine, California, focuses on structure and accountability. Teens in our program are offered the opportunity to transition back home gradually, with support, for a more successful long-term recovery. We also connect them with support in their area to help them where it matters, which is at home. Call Sustain today at (949) 407-9052.

  2. Helping Adolescents Manage Family Drama During the Holidays

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    A mid adult mother and teen daughter listen to the unrecognizable mid adult female counselor.

    Most adolescents do not find the holidays to be “the most wonderful time of the year.” The holidays bring time with family that is often involuntary, or at least not a preferred activity for many at this age. For too many adolescents, the holidays also mean facing dysfunction, past trauma or abuse, substance abuse, and mental health issues within the extended family. Or, at the minimum, family drama. For adolescents who are in treatment or recovery for substance abuse or mental health diagnoses, facing family dysfunction also puts them at high risk for relapse.

    Familial Risk Factors for Addiction Relapse

    The increased likelihood of alcohol or other substances being used or available in the home around the holidays is an obvious risk for an adolescent coming out of treatment or beginning recovery. In many situations, substance abuse and mental health behaviors stem from addiction, mental illness, abuse, or other dysfunction within the family environment, so being home for the holidays could be the worst place for an adolescent new to sobriety.

    However, those dysfunctional situations are not the only familial risk factors for relapse. According to a 2018 article published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, families who disengage from the adolescent or try to avoid the addiction or mental health issues altogether are linked with greater episodes of relapse. Adolescents in families with dysfunction are less likely to relapse by relying on recovery and other community-based support. Unfortunately, many adolescents who are still living at home or under the age of 18 may not have as much control over their environment, especially during this time of year.

    Teaching Skills to Avoid Buying Into the Drama

    The goal of treatment for addiction is to give the adolescent enough relapse prevention skills as well as practice using those skills to give them a sense of self-efficacy regarding their recovery. Sometimes, this requires longer than a typical residential treatment program to achieve. The adolescent needs to be confident enough to face even the most stressful of situations.

    Adolescents who abuse substances are often using them as a coping mechanism for dealing with their personal problems, and family drama and dysfunction are high on the list of those problems for many of these adolescents. Addressing the actual problems themselves helps significantly to reduce the desire for substance use. Teaching coping skills such as mindfulness, clear communication, and setting clear boundaries can also help them avoid buying into the family drama. By learning and practicing these tools, they can develop the self-efficacy needed to face difficult family situations.

    Supporting Adolescents in Setting Holiday Boundaries

    While adolescents may not make a lot of effort to spend time with a dysfunctional family when given a choice, the traditions of the holiday season make it more difficult for them to set appropriate boundaries for themselves. Cultural and media expectations can add to the difficulty of making the right decisions for themselves. Stressing to them the importance of breaking the cycle of addiction, abuse, and mental illness can help them see the big picture.

    Help them to discover solutions to maintain their sobriety by avoiding excessively stressful or triggering situations, or dinners, parties, or other activities where they know substances will be available. Encourage them to use the support of sober friends and family members, to potentially only attend an early portion of a dinner or party, or to even attend a 12-Step meeting instead. Knowing that it is okay to set boundaries with their family, even during the holidays, will help them avoid additional stress.

    Recommending Alternatives for Adolescents at Risk of Relapse

    For some adolescents, it may not be safe at all for them to be at home. For those who have relapsed multiple times before, an extended residential program may be perfect, especially at this time of the year — not as an avoidance of stressors, but rather to develop the skills, trust, and self-efficacy needed to face familial and other stress later on. They may also be ready for outpatient or intensive outpatient services, a sober living environment, or another environment rather than simply being at home.

    As a clinician, you will be able to evaluate the situation on an individual basis and make the appropriate recommendations for the adolescent and their family, taking into consideration past experiences with family, the support level, and family environment, as well as how the adolescent reacts to and interacts with their family. Determining the risk for relapse also takes into consideration whether or not your client has developed honesty and trust in themselves, as well as the skills and self-efficacy to face difficult family situations. Facing family dysfunction and drama puts adolescents at much higher risk for relapse, but with the right tools and support, they can gain more confidence through their experiences.

    Because families present such high-risk factors for adolescents to relapse during the holidays, teens need the tools and support to help them succeed at this time of the year. Helping them to set boundaries and find alternatives within serious family situations can help them sustain their recovery and develop greater self-efficacy. Sustain Recovery works with families as part of our curriculum. Our extended residential program offers adolescents the opportunity to slowly transition home rather than abruptly leave. We seek to develop trust in themselves and their ability to maintain their recovery by addressing the underlying problems beneath the coping mechanisms of substance abuse and mental health issues. We offer a structured program that teaches them the value of making their own choices and is run by a staff who are passionate about helping adolescents succeed. Call Sustain Recovery today at (949) 407-9052 for more information and find out if our program would be a good fit for your client.

  3. Tips for Handling the Holidays With Someone in Recovery

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    The holiday season is almost here, and for many people, that means mostly positive activities and time with loved ones that they look forward to every year. For the guardians of an adolescent in recovery from alcohol or drug use, the holidays can mean extra stress. We all want our children to enjoy old traditions and feel the holiday joy they did in simpler times, but it’s essential to be vigilant in adapting to the child’s newfound recovery. Parents can formulate a plan for monitoring their child for signs of struggling during the holiday season and approaches to take to help them.

    Countering the Indulgence Factor

    The holidays often offer a host of temptations for people to enjoy at home and in social situations. Excessive food consumption can disrupt a person’s healthy food intake or diet, leaving them vowing to make up for it in the new year. It becomes more complicated when alcohol is continuously on the menu, and overindulgence is often excused as just part of the season or what everyone else is doing at a party. 

    If an adolescent’s family in recovery is hosting a get-together, consider making it an alcohol-free event. Making an exotic punch or gourmet hot chocolate with a variety of toppings available the star of the drink table helps guests appreciate something different when they might otherwise have expected alcoholic beverages to be served. If this isn’t possible, parents should make a point to talk to any guests who are aware of their child’s newfound sobriety and give them a gentle reminder not to flaunt alcohol consumption or offer even ‘just one sip’ to their child. 

    Look For Signs of a Pending Relapse

    Parents of a child dealing with alcoholism or addiction know it’s essential to be aware of any warning signs of the child being on the brink of relapse. Still, it’s not always easy to determine is how to recognize and interpret the signs. Look for clues that the child is experiencing difficult emotions. They may exhibit symptoms of anger, depression, frustration, or restlessness. Open a dialogue with your child to let them know that the holiday season can make demands on people’s time, and there are false expectations that everyone has to be jolly and upbeat at all times, which isn’t realistic. Let them know they can talk about any emotions they are experiencing that may tempt them to relapse.

    Other signs to look for that may signal a child is on the brink of losing their sobriety include a change in their attitudes, such as reacting negatively to most conversations and situations. They might begin to isolate and withdraw from everyday activities or refuse to participate in family or group events. The parents may see signs that their child has reestablished contact with people from their past who were part of their history of drinking or using drugs. The adolescent might begin to express doubts about their addiction or alcoholism. You may see them testing the waters by claiming they can drink or use drugs again without it being a problem. 

    Start New Traditions

    Part of the holiday season’s joy is taking part in traditional activities that a family has enjoyed for years. Unfortunately, some of these traditions may be reminders of when a child used to engage in drinking or using drugs. While not all traditional activities have to be avoided now that maintaining sobriety is front and center in a family member’s life, beginning new traditions can be quite helpful. Consider doing something that does not center around drinking, such as visiting a local attraction like a park or the zoo. Volunteer options include wrapping presents for children in need, serving a meal to the homeless, or spending a day working with animals in a shelter. Doing things like this honors the holiday spirit without putting temptation on the table.

    Reach Out to Treatment Team Members

    Remind your child that they are always free to reach out to someone from their treatment team if they feel the holidays are adding too much extra stress. A phone call or online meeting with a therapist between regular visits can help assuage a child’s concerns and give them a boost of support they need. If the child has been to a residential facility, take advantage of any aftercare or alumni programs they offer. If the parent isn’t sure what options they have for that, call the facility and let them know what’s going on. They may offer a telephone or in-person consultation, a group meeting, or other ideas to combat holiday stress and keep the child from giving in to temptation. 

    Even when the holiday season brings a lot of joy to a person’s life, it still is not without stress. When the person is an adolescent who is in recovery for alcoholism or drug addiction, it can be challenging to get through a season that focuses so much on indulgence. Family members need to have a good game plan to recognize signs their child is struggling and step in to help them. Sustain Recovery is a program for adolescents who deal with alcohol and drug use and co-occurring mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. We offer residential treatment, including schooling, individual and group therapy, and work with the family to help them continue their newfound recovery after leaving our treatment. Call us today to find out how we can make this and every holiday season one of health and happiness for the entire family! (949) 407-9052.


Sustain Recovery changed my life in a way I never considered remotely possible. I arrived in a place where I knew nobody. Sustain Recovery gave me tools so that I never had to be alone again. I learned how to live like an adult and have genuine relationships with other human beings. I gained a sense of self respect, love, and pride from the challenges I was given by staff. I was able to work through the recent loss of my father and I achieved my goal of not taking any psychiatric medication.
I learned that life is an endless balancing act. I have to continually work on myself and my relationships with the people in my life. The staff at Sustain Recovery are all incredibly experienced and spiritual. They were available to me whether I wanted their help or not. Through their efforts and experience, I experienced the inner workings of having an intimate, loving relationship with a loving creator.
Sustain Recovery is “home” for me. I discovered a loving, caring family that helped launch me to a place I would have never dreamed and, if I would have dreamed it, I would never have believed I would be able to accomplish it.

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