How Addiction Can Impact Interpersonal Relationships During The Holidays



The holiday season is a time for joy, celebration, and togetherness. Families and friends gather, exchanging gifts and warm wishes. However, for individuals grappling with addiction and their loved ones, this time of year can bring about unique challenges. In this article, we will explore how addiction can impact interpersonal relationships during the holidays and discuss the role of Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) in providing support and solutions.

Holiday Triggers and Challenges

Holidays are often associated with tradition and social gatherings. Families come together, and friends reunite to celebrate the festive spirit. However, for those struggling with addiction, these occasions can be particularly daunting.

The Temptation of Alcohol

For individuals in recovery, the presence of alcohol during the holidays can be a significant trigger. The temptation to join in the festivities and have a drink can be overwhelming. This inner conflict can lead to anxiety and heightened cravings, affecting not only the individual but also their relationships with loved ones.

Emotional Stress and Expectations

The holiday season can bring emotional stress due to the pressure of creating perfect moments and living up to expectations of joy and togetherness. For individuals with addiction, this pressure can be overwhelming, leading to increased anxiety and depression. The emotional strain can result in strained communication and tension in relationships.

The Role of Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs)

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) play a vital role in supporting individuals facing addiction during the holiday season. These programs offer a structured and flexible approach to treatment, allowing individuals to receive the necessary care while still participating in family festivities.

Comprehensive Treatment

IOPs provide comprehensive treatment that includes individual and group therapy sessions. Through therapy, individuals can gain insight into the underlying causes of their addiction and develop coping strategies to manage triggers during the holidays. This self-awareness and newfound resilience can positively impact their relationships, as they are better equipped to handle stress and avoid relapse.

Family Therapy

One of the ways addiction impacts interpersonal relationships during this time is through strained communication. Loved ones may find it challenging to understand the behaviors and struggles of the individual with addiction. Misunderstandings and arguments can escalate, leading to further tension.

IOPs address this issue by offering family therapy sessions. In these sessions, family members can gain a deeper understanding of addiction, its effects, and the challenges faced by their loved one. They learn effective communication strategies and how to provide support without enabling destructive behaviors. This not only benefits the individual in recovery but also strengthens family bonds, fostering a more supportive environment during the holidays.

Rebuilding Trust

Another aspect affected by addiction during the holidays is trust. Trust is a cornerstone of healthy relationships, but addiction can erode it over time. Loved ones may have experienced broken promises and deceit, making it difficult to fully trust the individual in recovery.

Intensive outpatient programs incorporate trust-building exercises and strategies into their treatment plans. Through group therapy and individual counseling, individuals with addiction can work on rebuilding trust with their loved ones. They learn to be honest and consistent in their actions, gradually mending the broken trust. This process takes time and effort, but it is essential for repairing damaged relationships and creating a sense of security during holiday gatherings.

Intensive outpatient programs like Riverside Recovery of Tampa incorporate trust-building exercises and strategies into their treatment plans.

Financial Support

Additionally, the financial strain caused by addiction can be especially challenging during the holiday season. Individuals with addiction may have faced job loss or financial instability, making it difficult to participate in gift-giving or holiday activities. This can lead to feelings of guilt and inadequacy, further impacting relationships.

Intensive outpatient programs address this issue by providing resources and support for financial stability. They can connect individuals with addiction to job training programs, financial counseling, and assistance programs. By addressing the financial aspect of addiction, IOPs help individuals regain their self-esteem and participate in the holiday season without the added burden of financial stress.

Coping Strategies for Loved Ones

Loved ones of individuals struggling with addiction also face their share of challenges during the holidays. It’s important for them to have coping strategies to maintain their own well-being and offer support.


The holiday season can be emotionally taxing for the loved ones of individuals with addiction. Prioritizing self-care is crucial during this period. Seeking support from friends, support groups, or therapists can provide comfort and a sense of shared experience. Talking openly about feelings and concerns can alleviate the emotional burden.

Additionally, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga can help manage holiday-related stress effectively. Setting healthy boundaries is another essential aspect of self-care. Establishing clear boundaries, like limiting financial support and refusing to enable behaviors, can provide a sense of control and prevent feelings of being overwhelmed.

Education and Empathy

Understanding addiction and approaching it with empathy is vital for loved ones during the holidays. Educating oneself about addiction, its science, common triggers, and the recovery process empowers loved ones to provide better support and make informed decisions.

Empathy plays a crucial role in building and maintaining strong relationships with individuals in recovery. By putting themselves in their family member’s shoes and recognizing their struggles, cravings, and emotional challenges, loved ones can create a more compassionate and understanding environment. When discussing addiction-related issues, communicating with compassion and empathy rather than judgment or criticism can foster a positive and supportive atmosphere, allowing their loved ones to feel heard and valued.


In conclusion, addiction can significantly impact interpersonal relationships during the holidays. The stress, triggers, and strained communication can create tension within families and among friends. For individuals with addiction and their loved ones, seeking help through an IOP can make a significant difference in navigating the challenges of the holiday season.

It is a step toward healing, understanding, and rebuilding relationships, allowing everyone to experience the true spirit of togetherness during this special time of year.

Jennifer Bell is a wellness coach, a family caregiver, and a writer for intensive outpatient treatment programs in the Philadelphia area.