I know that you worry about your loved one, or friend with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems. you feel compassionate and want them to be with you, not be alone, and have a happy holiday. But, you also want all your other loved ones to have a happy holiday experience. It’s a very difficult position. I would like to help and support you. Here are some tips that may be useful in facilitating a happy time for all. I will list what to do with people experiencing substance abuse, anxiety, and depression, based on the potential that each of these conditions have to disrupt your happy holidays

Substance Abuse

  1. Contact the person that suffers from substance abuse before the event. If not possible, make contact with them as early as possible to avoid any unpleasantness from developing. Gently, but firmly, approach the loved one that has shown signs of substance abuse in the past. Share with them any factual events of the past, for example, if they have been belligerent, they have caused conflicts and fights, or, they have embarrassed themselves and others. 
  1. Tell the person dealing with substance abuse that you love them. Let him/her know that you want to enjoy the holidays with them. But, let them know that you also are responsible for everyone else enjoying the holidays. Name specific people that would be in the party that would be badly affected by the substance abusers’ negative behavior.
  1. If possible ask the person with substance abuse how they would feel if certain loved ones would experience any of the past behaviors related to their substance abuse. Make reference to important people in your lives like parents, grandparents, and children. Insist that they deserve to enjoy a happy and joyful time that they will remember for the rest of their lives. 
  2. Ask the person to help you create a happy holiday for all. Ask them to contribute to everyone’s happiness, by not drinking for only 1 night. That is a reasonable request.
  1. If they insist on abusing alcohol, gently tell them that in order to continue to stay they must stop. If they can’t, or won’t stop, it will be necessary to ask them to leave. Make that possible for them. Assist them in getting an Uber, taxi, or a ride if they need one.
  1. You will probably feel guilty. Accept your feeling of guilt, it’s natural. But, also force yourself to think that you would also feel guilty if your substance abuser would create a crisis that would leave a bitter memory of the holidays for all your other loved ones—especially children.
  1. You can call the person suffering from substance abuse the next day, and thank them for contributing to everyone having a happy holiday, or reassure them of your love and support if you had to ask them to leave. 

Anxiety

  1. Contact the person that suffers from substance abuse before the event. If not possible, make contact with them as early as possible. Let them know that they are safe. Tell them that if they feel anxious it’s ok to go somewhere where they feel safe. Tell them that they don’t need to try to hide their anxiety, let them know that you understand. Your assurance of support will reduce the majority of triggers for anxiety.
  2. If the person with anxiety feels very anxious, or begins the have a panic attack, go with them to a quiet space and do the following:
    1. Ask them to name 5 things that they see.
    2. Ask them to name 4 things that they hear.
    3. Ask them to name 3 things that they touch
    4. Ask them to name and describe what it’s like to touch 2 things
    5. Ask them to name 1 thing that they smell

This exercise will bring them back to the present moment and give them relief: anxiety happens when people imagine something bad happening in the future.

  1. Reassure them that they don’t have to be embarrassed or ashamed of their anxiety. Tell them that you understand that it is a condition that it’s not their fault. Tell them it’s ok for them to try to feel safe, and you will support them in doing so.

Depression

  1. Give the person with depression space. Don’t expect them to want to engage in the festivities all the time. If they seek to be alone at times and withdraw from others, let them, don’t chase. They probably are feeling overwhelmed and need a little silence and solitude. 
  1. Make occasional contact, and let them know that you are available and you care for them. One or 2 sentences will do. 
  1. Watch their alcohol consumption, and lovingly remind them that alcohol is a depressant that will make them feel more depressed, not better. 
  1. Ask for help from others that may contribute to alcohol consumption. Ask them to stop encouraging, or facilitating, the depressed person’s drinking.
  1. Alert others close to the depressed person to look for signs of depression. Collaborate in facilitating a smooth transition going home, and make contact the next day and ask about their mood.

I hope that you find these tips useful. I hope that they don’t become necessary. If they do, I want you to know that I know that you are in a difficult position, and anything that you do to promote a happy holiday for your loved ones is an act of caring. Just the fact that you have read this, and be willing to put it into practice shows love. If you had to put any of these tips into action you have a right to feel that you have acted lovingly and responsibly.

Above all, remember to have a happy holiday too. 


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