Dealing with Your In-Laws Without Using Drugs or Alcohol

The holidays tend to induce stress. Whether you are worrying about the burden of holiday spending, finding a specific gift for your child or dealing with large crowds at retail stores, this time of the year isn’t easy. Another potential source of stress: your in-laws. If you are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, stress can be dangerous. It can lead to frustration, anxiety or angry outbursts, which can lead to relapse. Even after completing rehab, you can still experience relapse if you are not careful. Each December, families around the country congregate around the dinner table for feast and chatter. But these conversations sometimes lead to arguments about a variety of topics, such as finances, sports, politics or the way you are raising your child. Do you have a mother- or- father-in-law who stresses you out? You are not alone. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol to deal with anxiety or stress, you can find healthier ways to combat this stress and avoid relapse.

Acknowledge Your Emotions

Stress is a normal emotion that everybody experiences. So it is okay to acknowledge your feelings when your in-laws do or say something that angers or frustrates you. Instead of forcing yourself to be happy because it is the holidays, express your feelings. Forcing feelings away for a prolonged period of time could cause chronic stress, which can lead to relapse.

Set Aside Your Differences

You and your in-laws may have clashing personalities. You may not appreciate their candor, or they may feel that you are too reserved. But you all can set aside these differences and enjoy a pleasant holiday. If needed, you can even schedule a more appropriate time to discuss grievances. Remember that your in-laws may be just as stressed as you are during this time of the year.

Plan Ahead

Preparation is important when you’re hosting. To reduce the chances of distress, it is prudent to ensure that tasks are completed before the in-laws arrive. This may include shopping for dinner ingredients or coming up with cleanup ideas. You may also want to brainstorm pleasant topics of conversation that will not lead to arguments with the in-laws.

Spend Some Time Alone

It is okay to spend some time alone. If you feel stressed, listen to music, read a book or take a short walk outside to collect your thoughts and calm your emotions. Spending just 15 minutes alone could help clear your mind and lift your mood.

Stick to Healthy Habits

If you are recovering from an eating disorder, the holidays present a different set of stressors. Overindulgence can be triggering for people recovering from an eating disorder, and it can cause relapse. In the presence of unhealthy food, it is easy to overindulge. So choose your food wisely, monitor your food intake and do not eat to the point of discomfort.

Confide in Supportive Family or Friends

If you find yourself stressed out by something an in-law said, confide in those with whom you share a close bond. Support could come from your spouse, close friends, a support group or your recovery coach. These individuals could provide advice to help reduce your anxiety. If you continue feeling stressed after these conversations, seek advice from a counselor or physician. Maintaining a healthy body and mind is critical during your recovery. If you feel stressed long after your in-laws have gone home, seek assistance. Go to 12-step meetings or counseling. You can even attend a sober house, which strives to limit drug and alcohol temptations. Always find ways to care for yourself, no matter the time of the year. You may not always have pleasant experiences with your in-laws, but they are family. It may be beneficial to treat them as you would treat your spouse, best friend or children. Arguments will happen, but do not let the stress of the holidays fracture your relationships or put your sobriety at risk.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

View Sources

  • Brown, D. (2016, April 5). Binge Eating and Binge Drinking: Same Origins. Retrieved from #
  • Mayo Clinic. (2017, September 16). Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping. Retrieved from #

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