Be proactive, not reactive: Safeguarding addiction recovery through holidays

Learn About Hazelden Betty Ford

Center City, Minn. (Nov. 23, 2022) – With aliases like Drinksgiving, Blackout Wednesday, the biggest binge drinking night of the year, and the biggest drunk driving night of the year—it's clear why Thanksgiving Eve can be a problematic time for those working on their recovery from alcohol and other drugs. Yet, with preparation and planning, it doesn't have to be a major stumbling block.

For those who are looking to reconnect and abstain, addiction treatment, recovery and prevention experts at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation share their three top strategies for navigating holiday parties while in recovery:

  • Always keep a soda or water in your hand, so people won't offer you an alcoholic drink.
  • Have an exit strategy – know when and how you plan to leave.
  • Drive yourself and come alone, so you're not dependent on someone else for a ride or responsible for taking someone else home.

Thanksgiving is just the beginning of a whirlwind of holidays: At its sites around the U.S., Hazelden Betty Ford often sees an increase in readmission rates during the last two months of the year—spurred by factors such as the strain of the holidays, insurance deductibles, and the promise of the New Year—followed by an increase in overall admissions in January.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation website offers many resources for the holidays:

  • "It's okay to feel overwhelmed or nervous about the upcoming season, and the worst thing we can do is stuff it all down and pretend like everything is okay. Instead, let's try to accept our circumstances and create better traditions that create space for hope and recovery."
    – Anita Bont, manager of addiction program
  • "It's an anxious time for everyone, but especially those early in recovery who have not yet established a new tradition of celebrating without substances. But there are ways you can prepare and safeguard the greatest gift you've ever given yourself and those you love: your recovery." – Kim Albers, director of recovery management
  • "A conversation between a child and their adult caregiver to confront worries before the start of the holiday season can help to decrease the anxiety and fear. Let kids know that it is okay to have these feelings, that they are not alone—perhaps you share some of the same concerns—and that it is always okay to talk about your feelings with someone you trust and who cares about you." –Helene Photias, national director of the Children's Program.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. As the nation's leading nonprofit provider of comprehensive inpatient and outpatient addiction and mental health care for adults and youth, the Foundation has treatment centers and telehealth services nationwide as well as a network of collaborators throughout health care. Through charitable support and a commitment to innovation, the Foundation is able to continually enhance care, research, programs and services, and help more people. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation today is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in its services and throughout the organization, which also encompasses a graduate school of addiction studies, a publishing division, an addiction research center, recovery advocacy and thought leadership, professional and medical education programs, school-based prevention resources and a specialized program for children who grow up in families with addiction.