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How to Support a Loved One Who Uses Drugs During the Holidays

It’s not always easy to love someone who uses drugs. This is a quick guide to help you navigate loving a person who uses drugs while maintaining holiday cheer!

Have Narcan (Naloxone) on hand: If you need Narcan or want to learn

more about it and how to use it, reach out to us! We will stock you up for free. Narcan is an (opiate) overdose reversal medication and should be a part of every first aid kit.

Respect boundaries: Your boundaries and theirs matter! Boundaries are how we love ourselves and others at the same time. Refer to our previous blog post by Family Services Counselor, Bethany DePugh to learn more about setting and holding boundaries!

Avoid contingencies: Most people who use drugs want to be with their loved ones for the holidays, but it can be incredibly triggering to do so. Working together with your loved one who uses drugs can not only build trust between you and deepen your relationship but can make the holidays much more enjoyable for everyone too!

This could look like compromising and making a plan ahead of time i.e. “We’d love to have you at Christmas dinner. I understand if you need to use before you get here or when you leave, but I don’t want drugs in my house. Can we agree to that? If you bring drugs inside, I’ll have to ask you to leave, but I promise I won’t do it in front of everyone or embarrass you. Deal?”

Avoid guilt and shame: This includes using language that is stigmatizing, disrespectful, or downright cruel. Try implementing person first language as a first step.

Instead of... Say...

Addict Person who uses drugs

Junkie Person who uses


Clean Sober/in recovery

Crazy Person struggling with

mental health

Act as a buffer: Some people may never understand what it means to use drugs or struggle with substance use. This could lead to conflict or arguments between them and the person who uses drugs or among family members about the person who uses drugs. If your family dynamics allow for it, try to educate, or change the subject. You could suggest a walk outside or another piece of pie!

We want holiday cheer, not hostility. But this can be easier said than done. One thing we know for sure is that guilt, shame, and isolation doesn’t help a situation wherein a person is using drugs problematically, so while it can be a hard balance to strike, it’s important we try. Many of us know the harms experienced, the hurt feelings, and the resentments that can exist in families when folks use drugs. This is true for the people who love a person using drugs and the person using drugs. We have more in common than we think.

People who use drugs are people we love and even if we don’t agree with their choices or associated behaviors, even if we find it impossible to understand, they’re still deserving of love, dignity, and respect. A little can go a long way.

Of course, if you need more resources, or have questions, don’t hesitate to call First Call. We’re always here to help.


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