Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

Tips for Managing the Stress When Someone you Love

Abuses Alcohol or Other Drugs


Thanksgiving and Winter Break are typically much needed and anticipated times away from the stress of your academic commitments.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are also two of the most family oriented holidays of the year.  However, for students who have family members with substance abuse problems, going home can be a little like swapping one type of stress for another.  We encourage you to prepare yourself for reentry by thinking about and acting on some of the suggestions listed below for managing this stress.  Keep in mind that there is no one “right” way to deal with the pain and stress.  Use what seems most helpful for your circumstance.


From the book “The Resilient Self” (Wolin & Wolin, 1993):

  • Do not be frightened by the myth that family problems will inevitably be perpetuated from one generation to the next.  This is not true.
  • Do not be lured into the Victim’s trap or believe you will feel better by examining the damage you have suffered over and over again.  This will only keep the past alive and intensify the pain. Believe in yourself that you can create the life you wish for yourself whether or not your loved one stops drinking/using.
  • Do not deplete yourself by continuously blaming your parents (or other loved ones) for hurting you.  This will only fuel your anger and tighten your ties to your troubled family.


From the book “Sober for Good” (Fletcher, A., 2001):

  • Don’t make it easy for the drinker/user to keep on drinking/using.
  • Don’t stop loving them.
  • Don’t nag, criticize, preach or complain
  • Address the problem directly
  • Seek help for yourself
  • Detach, separate, walk away
  • Set a good example
  • Be there for them when they’re ready



  • Keep in mind the mantra “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it but I can change my response to it”.
  • Take breaks – walk, listen to music you love, enjoy the sights and sounds of the season, be happy.
  • Connect with supportive and caring people who make you feel safe.