89.1 WEMU

People Fighting Substance Abuse And Their Peers Face Challenges On New Year's Eve

Dec 30, 2016

Glass of Champagne
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

New Year's Eve is right around the corner.  For many, it's a time to gather friends and family and celebrate into the early morning hours.  Many of those celebrations are accompanied by indulgence in alcohol.  Ringing in 2017 in that kind of environment can pose serious difficulties for those struggling with addiction.


Even those not suffering from substance abuse can struggle with the stress of the holiday season.  Some of that may subside with the social gatherings and traditions of raising a glass to welcome the New Year.  Those kind of traditions can adversely impact the way those struggling with substance abuse view a seemingly harmless get-together.

Curtis Thornton is the Clinical Director of Home of New Vision.  It's a local, nonprofit organization that helps those affected by addiction.

"They can have regrets that they're not there for family events.  They can have embarrassment or shame attached to them.  They can feel like they don't belong.  So, typically, we associate the holidays as being a time of togetherness.  It can actually make an individual feel more isolated when they're using substances."

Thornton says it can be equally as difficult, if not harder, for those who are in the process of recovery from addiction.

"They can be reminded of the people that they've lost, the people that they're not able to see anymore.  They can be reminded of who they were at that time and feel some of the shame come back."

For those throwing a party this holiday season, it can be a difficult decision as to what to do.  Do we invite someone who is struggling?  If we do, are we enabling them?  Curtis says friends and family play a major role in helping with a person's recovery.

"One of the things that we see happen is that family doesn't know what to do, and, sometimes, they'll give up on the individual, or they'll seem to give up on the individual, or they'll call it tough love.  It's really important at the holidays--not just the holidays, really but anytime--to remember that the individual with the substance abuse needs love year-round."

Ultimately, the decisions must be made on an individual basis, and there is no single answer.  If you are struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, there is help.  If you want more information on how best to help the addict in your group, there is help.  Reaching out for assistance, alone or together, can serve as the next step.

The Washtenaw County Public Health Department's website has much more information on substance abuse treatment services in the area.  It just may mean the difference between a simple celebration and a truly Happy New Year.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu