Telling family members about your recovery

How to Talk to Your Family About Recovery During the Holidays

By Tori Utley is an entrepreneur working jointly in technology innovation and addiction recovery, holding her license as an alcohol and drug counselor (LADC) in Minnesota.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

Telling family members about your recovery

If it's your first sober Christmas holiday, you might be nervous about the questions you'll get at the dinner table. Whether your family has been supportive or not, it can be easy to get defensive or even have hurt feelings over something they may have said.

For this reason, it's important to go into a conversation with your family members knowing what to expect. While you can't plan for every question, offensive glance or back-handed compliment, try to remember these four things to keep you centered and at peace as you're talking to your family about your recovery.

Whether they're supportive or critical, your family will probably ask about your recovery this Christmas holiday. Here are 4 things to remember before forming any assumptions about how they should react to your newfound sober self.

1. It takes time.

Just like your recovery hasn't happened overnight, your family's positive response might not either. If this isn't your first time getting sober, it might take more time to prove to your family that you're serious.

Some have even said that in addiction, "We've trained our family how to respond and how to act." We're all creatures of habit, and your family needs time to learn the new you. Remember this and be patient with them. Use it as an opportunity to continue showing them who you are in recovery—and that you're serious about it.

2. You can't change the past.

Don't try to change it or explain it away. No matter how painful or ugly, it happened. The good news? You can change the future.

Your family might want to have a conversation about the past or re-hash an old conflict. Even though it hurts, try not to get defensive. Instead, use the tools your recovery has given you—patience, integrity, honesty and compassion, among many others.

Said best by the promises of AA, "We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it."

3. People are allowed to respond.

All you need to do is the next right thing. You can't change the way other people perceive your recovery, or even respond to it. Stay in control of yourself, and leave other people to themselves.

You might not like someone's unsolicited opinion or feedback, but it happens, and people have the freedom to express themselves, no matter how difficult it might be to hear. If you don't agree, try responding in love, using fact and putting emotion aside. If you need extra help processing, consider discussing any difficult feedback you receive with a counselor, sponsor or recovery coach.

4. Be grateful.

Hold on to the principle of gratitude throughout the holidays this year. Your family might get on your nerves, might say the wrong thing, and might even offend you during your Christmas celebration.

Try to stay grateful for your family, including the good and bad. And if it's hard to direct your gratitude towards your family specifically, stay grateful for recovery. Recovery is giving you the ability to be an active participant in the holidays, in your family, and in resisting confrontation with difficult family members.

No matter what happens when you talk with your family about recovery, remember to give them time. Cling to the principles of recovery to help you stay humble, centered and focused.

And if Grandma or Mom brings up a past memory, try to keep it light. Acknowledge and take ownership where needed, and remind them, "I'm doing something different today—I'm pursuing recovery."

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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