Celebrating the holidays is supposed to be a fun and happy time for families to spend together. When one or more family members have a history of problems with drugs or alcohol, however, it can be stressful. Sometimes family members of those who have spent time at Saint Jude Retreats are concerned about how to act or what to say and do during the first family holiday dinner after their loved one returns from a stay at our program. Although they may have been back for a few months or a few weeks, it can be awkward for family members who have had problems with trust and hurt in the past.

If you find yourself at a family get-together with a loved one who has returned from Saint Jude Retreats, here are a few tips that may help you to ease the tension and concern, leaving the holidays open for fun, festivities and a time to cherish being together.

The best approach is to allow them to make a fresh start and to take control of their life once again. Living with a substance user can create mistrust and letting go of past hurts can be difficult, but your loved one has completed a process that has been life changing for them. Your openness and trust will give them the opportunity to show you how much they have changed.

If you ask them what their plans are for the evening, do it in a respectful manner as part of a conversation. Do not be accusatory or suspicious of their behavior. Expect that they may wish to do something fun or perhaps see the holiday lights in the neighborhood or enjoy a local event.

Do not directly offer substances that the individual may have had issues with in the past. Your family does not have to hide your natural behaviors, such as having wine with dinner but be sure to provide plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.

Do not bring up the their recent return or ask about their experience at Saint Jude Retreats. If they feel comfortable discussing it, they will turn the conversation in that direction on their own.

Keep in mind that ours is not a drug or alcohol rehab program, but one that teaches people that they are responsible for their choices and behaviors. They will not be attending weekly meetings or partake in a 12-step plan as these are counterproductive to them overcoming their problems and moving on with their life.

The holidays are a time for us all to appreciate what we have. Take the time to appreciate the fact that your loved one is with you and has embarked on a journey toward a healthier, happier lifestyle.