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How to support someone with alcohol addiction this Christmas

A family sat around the Christmas dinner table - Which rehab


Christmas can be stressful for everyone for different reasons. However, for those in active addiction and recovery from alcohol addiction, the festive season presents extra challenges. There’s no denying that drinking is rife around Christmas and navigating the minefield of temptation around this time can be exhausting. For those suffering from alcohol addiction, along with their friends and family, Christmas can be one big trigger.

What is alcohol addiction?

A reported 15% of adults in England (aged 16+) report binge drinking during the week 1. However, an addiction to alcohol is far more serious than drinking excessively every so often. Alcohol addiction refers to a psychological illness characterised by the inability to stop drinking alcohol despite the consequences of doing so. It’s an illness that destroys lives, with intensive treatment offering the best chance of recovery.

How you can support someone with alcohol addiction 

Sadly, and despite your best efforts, you can’t force someone into rehab. What you can do is offer support where possible, especially around Christmas and New Year. If your loved one is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, Christmas will no doubt bring about feelings of anxiety and uncertainty for you both. You may be in two minds as to whether you should invite this person to Christmas dinner. However, comfort from family may be just what they need to start their journey to sobriety.

1. Set clear boundaries

One of the most important things you can do to ensure your safety and theirs, is to clearly outline what you’re willing to tolerate. For example, you can let them know that you’re not willing to accept them arriving intoxicated or causing a scene in front of children. If you’ve set your boundaries out clearly, there is little room misunderstanding, therefore increasing your chances of a peaceful Christmas.

Reaching out for support and advice is vital if you’re someone in active addiction trying to get through the festive period. Likewise, if you’re a family member concerned about someone you care about, educating yourself on addiction and finding out about possible treatment options will keep you one step ahead.

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2. Plan alcohol free activities

Drinking to excess is common practice around Christmas. For someone in active addiction, it can be isolating to see people out drinking and feeling as though they can’t join in. In turn, feeling isolated only results in more drinking. Taking the time to plan some alcohol-free activities will mean a lot to your loved one while also showing them that they can have fun without alcohol and other substances.

3. Seek support for yourself

Trying to help a loved one can be extremely stressful, and while putting on a brave face helps, you may not be doing your best if you’re overwhelmed and anxious. There are groups such as Al Anon which exist to support families of people with addictions.

4. Communicate

Someone addicted to alcohol is unlikely to come forward and discuss their problem. Reaching out for a judgement-free conversation will mean a lot. Ask them what you can do to support them, and take the time to find out about possible triggers  so you can try your best to avoid them having to deal with one.  

5. Create new Christmas traditions.

People often feel pressure to continue old family Christmas traditions. Whether it involves going for a pub lunch on Christmas Eve or throwing a house party on New Year’s. Certain activities, especially those focussed on alcohol, can be triggering for someone battling addiction. Come up with new ideas together that everyone can enjoy.

Whether this will be your first Christmas in recovery or you’re actively battling alcohol addiction, it’s essential you reach out for support and advice. If you’re a family member who is worried about a loved one, call us today.

Things to avoid

A group of people cheering their drinking at Christmas - Which Rehab

While there’s plenty you can do to help, there are also certain things that should be avoided.

Avoid confrontation

Many see Christmas as an opportunity to air grievances and family feuds often bubble to the surface. However, if you want to help someone addiction to alcohol, you should do your best to diffuse any possible arguments. Resentment plays a huge part in addiction. And someone with an alcohol use disorder may use any hostility as an excuse to drink.

Don’t enable them

It’s easy to confuse enabling and helping. The suggestions above are examples of how you can help, but it’s important to avoid making the situation worse. For example, avoid taking on their responsibilities

What happens if someone you are supporting relapses?

Believe it or not, relapse is a very common part of recovery. If your loved one relapses, it’s important that you reassure them and have an honest conversation. Perhaps they hadn’t gone down the treatment route the first time and are open to alcohol rehab. If so, there are many treatment options available.

What treatment for alcohol addiction is available?

 There are plenty of treatment options for alcohol addiction and it’s important you find the one most suited to your situation. This could include an alcohol detox, inpatient rehab or treatment on an outpatient basis.


Which Rehab has helped thousands of people find recovery from alcohol addiction. As a friend or family member, knowing where to start can be daunting. At Which Rehab, we’ve worked hard to make the process as simple as possible. Call our team to find out which treatment options are available to you and what you can expect going forward. We can even arrange sober transport services to pick up your loved one and take them directly to rehab.