By Jenni Deming

The Bachelor may be a frivolous show, but it’s easy to get sucked into the drama. For two hours, you get to live vicariously through perfectly styled people on perfectly staged dates. Not to mention the rose ceremonies, which deliver over-the-top romance with an inevitable dose of heartbreak.

Red roseThat’s what Valentine’s Day can feel like if you’re single: a hyped-up holiday where everyone gets a rose but you. If you’re single and recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, February 14 can feel even more isolating.

Loneliness is difficult for anyone. But if your friend or family member is on the road to recovery right now, it’s important to be mindful of how they might be hurting on this “day of love.” Even if they successfully avoid advertisements and aisles full of heart-shaped boxes, they can’t avoid everything — whether it’s coworkers getting flowers or friends posting on social media.

So how can you help a loved one who might be struggling? First of all, try to understand why this holiday might be especially tough for them. A little empathy can go a long way. Then find loving ways to show your support and let them know how much you care.

Why Recovery Is So Hard Around Valentine’s Day

The earlier a person is in the recovery process, the more difficult this time of year might be. They’ve already made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s festivities. Now they have to get through another major holiday that’s supposed to be full of hugs and harmony.

Understandably, your loved one in recovery probably isn’t “feeling it.” Here are a few things that can make this day — and the days leading up to it — especially hard:

  • Romantic relationships are discouraged in the first year of recovery. Dating complicates the recovery process, as it can be a distraction from healing or even a trigger for relapse if things don’t work out.1 That’s why most experts agree it’s best to wait on new relationships.
  • They may have distanced themselves from dysfunctional relationships. Recovery involves change. Sometimes, that means putting space between the people and places that are most likely to trigger a relapse. It’s normal to miss old habits and relationships (even unhealthy ones) during special times of year.
  • They may have unintentionally isolated themselves. People in the early stages of recovery tend to withdraw as they readjust to their lives without drugs or alcohol.2 Building new, healthy friendships takes time, and it can get downright exhausting to find people they connect with again.
  • They may feel shame or regret over damaged relationships. Addiction causes harm to a great many relationships. And a holiday all about love may trigger painful memories of past hurts inflicted on a partner, child, parent or friend.

How You Can Help on Valentine’s Day

Go ahead and plan something special for your loved one this Valentine’s Day. That way, they’ll have an extra boost of “I’m thinking of you” during a hard time. Need ideas? These simple gestures can mean a lot:

  • Have flowers delivered to your loved one’s home or office.
  • Find a funny card and snail-mail it.
  • Invite your loved one over for a night of making fun of The Bachelor and eating way too much pizza.

It doesn’t have to be much. It just has to be personal — and from the heart.

How You Can Help on All the Other Days

Don’t limit your displays of affection to the holidays. Support your loved one throughout the year — especially if they’re in the early days of recovery. Here are some healthy ways you can help:

  • Attend family therapy sessions to work out lingering issues. Addiction affects everyone within a person’s family and friend circle. And the more supported your loved one feels, the better their chances of a sustained recovery. If you still have some unresolved issues, try a family support group, and talk it out in a safe place.
  • Encourage your loved one to join a personal support group. Attending 12-Step meetings is still one of the best ways to find camaraderie, community and support during recovery. If your loved one hasn’t been in a while, now’s a good time to encourage them to return. There’s something about being in a group of people who “get you” that can instill hope where others have failed.  
  • Remind your loved one to practice self-care. Staying home with Netflix every night can put anyone into a funk — fast. Be sure your friend or family member is practicing self-love with the help of rejuvenating routines such as yoga, hiking, cooking or even coloring.
  • Attend your own support group. You can best support your friend or family member if you are being supported as well. Get in touch with a group such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, and find healthy ways to express your hurts and find healing.

Signs of a Possible Relapse

Even if you’ve done all you can do, there’s still the possibility your loved one could relapse. It happens. If he or she shows signs of isolation, agitation or other irregular behavior, don’t “give them space.” Make sure they’re okay. And if they won’t talk to you, get another friend or their sponsor to check on them.

Relapse isn’t the end of the world, but it is important for your loved one to get back into recovery as soon as possible. Call our toll-free helpline if you’re worried your loved one has relapsed or connect with us via live chat. We’re here to help.


Sources:

1 Castaneda, Ruben. “Why Newly Sober Alcoholics and Addicts Shouldn’t Date for a Year.” U.S. News & World Report, February 13, 2017.

2 Mager, Dan. “What You Need to Know About Relationships and Recovery.” Psychology Today, May 15, 2017.