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Life Arts    H3'ed 12/25/20

Even in the age of Covid, "No thank you" is a complete sentence at parties

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Holiday parties can be challenging for people in recovery. Hosts can make things easier.
Holiday parties can be challenging for people in recovery. Hosts can make things easier.
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Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos

I've written a column on addiction and recovery for more than a dozen years. A staple of the column has been a sort of "word to the wise" on how to survive the holidays for those in recovery. It also serves as a guide to party hosts who may not be in recovery.

This year, things are more complicated. For starters, the parties have to be much smaller and confined to people you have good reason to believe are COVID-free. Large parties, especially with strangers, are out. Hopefully the vaccines work and we can return to bigger gatherings next year. But even at small gatherings, the risks to those in recovery are real. So listen up.

This is a treacherous time of year for people in early recovery from addiction. People who have found their way to recovery, be it via a 12-step program or otherwise, have been given suggestions on how to survive the season of temptation without relapse. If they use these tools, with practice, they can even enjoy the season.

It's the rest of you I'm mainly talking to here. You hosts, family members, well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and do the right thing, but aren't sure what that is. And yes, to those who don't get the concept of addiction at all, but can still avoid harming a relationship by following a few basic suggestions. So, some coping tools for the non-addicted, if you will:

"No thank you" is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. "One drink won't hurt you" is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, "A few butter cookies won't hurt. C'mon, it's Christmas." Or, "Get the dress, Put it on your credit card. You'll feel better." Not really.

By the way, "No thank you" is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won't go into hock for an expensive New Year's Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.

If you're hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. Don't make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don't point out that they're there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You'll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.

If you're honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you're just curious, keep it to yourself.

Honoring a guest's wishes is a sign of respect. Anticipating them in advance is even better. Encouraging someone to eat, drink or spend money when they don't want to is, at the very least, not gracious. Pressuring someone to partake of something when you know he or she is trying hard to avoid it is a good way to lose a friend. Addictions are not trivial matters. "No, thank you" is a perfectly good answer. Members of AA, OA and DA will be especially appreciative if you remember that.

And for those in recovery, remember to bring a phone with plenty of numbers and have a way to leave the party if you become too uncomfortable. There will be other parties, but there may not be another recovery.

Be smart and enjoy. Have a mask handy or, if need be, make a virtual appearance this year. Happy holidays.

rjgaydos@gmail.com
Bob Gaydos is writer in residence at zestoforange.com.

 

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Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
 

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