Treatment Expert: Don’t Let Holidays Delay Addiction Treatment for Yourself or a Loved One

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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. 

— an announcement from Recovery Centers of America

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.

Fork in the road photo from Recovery Centers of America

Photo from Recovery Centers of America

The fork in the road

“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 therapist with 25 years of experience in family therapy, trauma and substance use disorders by adolescents and young adults. She is also the family services director 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,” Caldwell said.
  • “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. Shame and fear. Parents and spouses often want to hide their loved one’s addiction because they are embarrassed or because of fear of being judged by other family members who don’t understand that alcoholism or drug abuse are diseases that need treatment like other medical conditions.
  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. Those in active addiction will often say anything to continue their ability to use.
  3. One treatment that didn’t work. Addiction treatment is a process that starts with detox and continues along a full continuum of care that includes residential treatment, several stages of outpatient treatment and then recovery support meetings and alumni support. Meaningful recovery continues throughout a person’s lifetime.  Chances are that your loved one stopped in the middle of treatment and was not able to get into meaningful recovery.

“It’s a tough decision for any parent or spouse but getting help is the right decision and could save your loved one’s life,” Caldwell said. “That’s the greatest gift you can give your family.”

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