How To Support A Loved One In Rehab During Christmas

  • Written by:

    Bedrock Recovery Center

  • Dr. Langdon M.D.
    Medically reviewed by:

    Kimberly Langdon M.D.

How To Support A Loved One In Rehab During Christmas

If your loved one is in a recovery center over the holiday season or they’re considering going to treatment and will be gone on Christmas Day, they don’t have to miss out on the festivities.

When it’s Christmas, a drug addiction treatment center might be the last place your friend, family member, child, or spouse wants to be.

But their mental wellbeing and substance abuse recovery is more important than being home for Christmas.

Here are several ways you can be supportive of your loved one in an inpatient or outpatient recovery program this time of the year.

Supporting Your Loved One In An Inpatient Rehab Program

Christmas is going to look different for someone who’s overcoming drug addiction or is in recovery from alcohol abuse in a residential inpatient rehab program or inpatient detox program.

They may be looking for ways to enjoy the festive period while in recovery as they’re missing their friends and family, sitting around the Christmas tree, and enjoying the holiday at home.

If your loved one is in a short-term or long-term treatment program this time of year, here’s how you can support them.

Visit Them During Visiting Hours

You can show your support by spending time with them as much as you can during the Christmas period.

If you’re visiting for the first time, make sure you get on the facility’s approved visitors list and come during the appointed visiting hours.

Some rehab centers have limited visiting hours due to COVID-19 restrictions. Others have closed off visitation altogether to keep clients safe, so you may need to do a virtual visitation if offered.

Simply showing up can mean the world to someone who’s in the midst of emotional and physical healing milestones.

If they can’t be home for Christmas, bring the festive spirit of Christmas time by being there for them.

Be Involved With Family Programs

If your loved one in addiction recovery is a family member, there might be programs you can be a part of.

Some inpatient rehab facilities offer:

  • family therapy
  • family support groups
  • educational classes about addiction and recovery for family members

Prove to your family member that you support their recovery by making an effort to learn about addiction, learn about the recovery process, heal family dysfunction, and more.

If you can participate in family therapy sessions with your loved one in recovery, use it as a time to learn about them and yourself, working through issues together.

Bring Facility-Approved Items And Gifts

Many addiction treatment centers allow family and friends to bring their loved ones certain items.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to contact the treatment staff to find out what is and is not allowed at the facility, but there are some common items that some rehab programs allow.

You may be able to bring your loved one:

  • a Christmas card
  • photos
  • a book
  • their favorite snacks
  • movies
  • music
  • gifts
  • clothes or shoes
  • products for personal hygiene
  • makeup
  • games
  • a journal or notebook
  • a small amount of cash for purchasing snacks or groceries

Some rehab centers allow non-WiFi-capable devices such as iPods, food items such as snacks and soft drinks, and media. However, not all programs allow these items. 

Check with your loved one’s treatment staff and put together a care package or gift box full of facility-approved items to wish them a happy holiday.

Send Them Letters

If you’re unable to see your loved one face-to-face as in Christmases past, send them a letter with a heartfelt note, family photos, and additional letters and stamps for them to write you back.

It can be hard to miss out on Christmas dinner, New Year’s Eve celebrations, and other annual festivities.

When you write to them, do share some of the fun things happening back home, but be sure to focus on how proud you are of their recovery and ask about how they’re doing.

Supporting Your Loved One In An Outpatient Rehab Program

People in outpatient addiction treatment programs may still participate in many of the usual holiday traditions during recovery because they’re living at home.

Outpatient programs (OP) involve part-time addiction treatment where your loved one continues living at home and travels to a facility for daily or weekly treatment.

Examples of these programs include:

Here’s how you can support your loved one in an outpatient treatment program this festive season.

Host A Sober Christmas Party

Christmas parties usually bring a level of discomfort to people recovering from addiction because there is often alcohol present.

Your friend may find it difficult to be around people drinking alcohol, as this can bring on cravings and lead to relapse.

Give your sober friend an alternative by hosting your own Christmas party with alcohol-free cocktails, fizzy drinks, and good food.

Offer Your Loved One A Ride To Treatment

Some people in addiction recovery rely on transportation services to get to outpatient treatment. If you find they’re without a ride to get to their program due to holiday restrictions, offer a ride.

They might have a peer support program, Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, or outpatient session on the day of the holiday, so prepare to pause your celebration momentarily to take them somewhere.

Help Them Keep Their Routine

One of the key components of any outpatient treatment program is routine. 

Because there’s a level of unpredictability with outpatient treatment due to not being under 24-hour supervision, having a set routine helps to promote self-care and sober, healthy habits.

Holidays like Christmas can disturb these carefully constructed routines, leaving people in addiction recovery vulnerable to relapse. 

Even in the busyness of the season, help your loved one to keep their routine going. If they start each day with meditation or prayer, Christmas morning should look no different.

If you have family in town or friends coming over for a big celebration, help your loved one to create a safe and quiet space to journal, call a recovery mentor, or pause and breathe.

Social Support And Addiction Recovery

A study published in 2010 found a strong correlation between social support and addiction recovery.

When a person has support from their family and community, they’re more likely to go to treatment and stay sober after their recovery program.

The study found that:

  • support from household members (such as a parent or spouse) is significantly associated with less severe alcohol use
  • community support (such as from friends, peers, and neighbors) is significantly associated with less severe alcohol problems, employment problems, and legal issues

If you’re feeling wary about sending your loved one to a drug or alcohol treatment program that extends over Christmas Eve, Christmas, or the New Year, know that your support is vital to their success.

By showing up and being there for them over their first sober Christmas, you’re positively influencing their sobriety outcomes in the long run.

Find Help For Your Loved One In Drug Or Alcohol Recovery

If your loved one is not yet in a recovery program but is ready to take the next step toward recovery, we’re here to help.

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we offer a wide range of care, including a residential treatment program and outpatient options for your loved one overcoming substance abuse.

Call our helpline today to get connected with one of our treatment specialists.


College of Natural Sciences, University of Texas at Austin — Social Support Aids Recovery from Drug Addiction, Study Suggests

National Center for Biotechnology Information — The relationship of social support to treatment entry and engagement: The Community Assessment Inventory

ScienceDirect An inverse relationship between perceived social support and substance use frequency in socially stigmatized populations