This past weekend my family and I faced the same problem that thousands of families will confront in this holiday season: what should we get our family member who is struggling with an addiction for the holidays? The holidays are notorious for being rife with complex emotions and family dynamics that are difficult to negotiate. From personal experience, I can attest that this is especially true for families with a member who is suffering from an active addiction or is early in their recovery. As I sat around the kitchen table discussing the options with my parents, we had difficulty balancing our desire to demonstrate our love and care for Justin* through a holiday gift, with the concern of giving something that might be triggering or be used to further his addiction. I tried searching online for advice and was greeted by numerous websites and blog posts suggesting gifts directly tied to recovery, such as self-help books or reflection journals adorned with sobriety mantras. While these may be ideal gifts for some individuals, I felt the urge to give something that showed that my family recognizes Justin in his entirety, as more than his addiction. As I’m sure many families want to give holistic gifts, below is a list of six gift ideas, not directly related to recovery, that could be perfect for someone in your life who is struggling with addiction.
- A shared experience: Whether tickets to see their favorite sports team or a food tour around a neighborhood in their city, giving your loved one an experience the two of you can share is an easy way to demonstrate your desire to support them. It also provides an opportunity to spend quality time together, something that often falls by the wayside when a family member is actively using.
- Classes: A primary struggle for individuals early in recovery is finding healthy ways to occupy the time they previously spent using substances. As a result, many individuals in early recovery seek to develop new hobbies or return to hobbies they were once passionate about. From cooking classes to sessions in a pottery studio to music lessons, there are countless options of classes to gift for the holidays. Giving your loved one a set of lessons in a topic that interests them is a great way to engage with their productive hobbies and show your care.
- Health-related gift: As focus on physical health is generally deprioritized while a loved one is using substances, getting back into the routine of working out is a healthy habit many in recovery pursue. Further, going to the gym at regular times can help provide the structure many early in recovery search for. A gym membership, sneakers, or a yoga matt are all great gifts for someone looking to reengage their healthy habits.
- Something sentimental: A gift that demonstrates that you care and pay attention to someone is perfect for anyone on your holiday list, but such thoughtful gifts can be especially meaningful for those facing with addiction. Addiction is isolating and often leads to strained family relationships. Gifting something that shows personalized affection, such as a thoughtful letter or a bouquet of their favorite flowers, can demonstrate your willingness to work towards mending a fraught relationship. A great place to start when brainstorming for this category is to think back on the things your loved one was passionate about before their addiction. If, for example, your loved one is an animal lover, you could get them a journal, piece of jewelry, or household decoration with their favorite animal on it.
- Something practical: While it may seem mundane, sometimes the best gifts are the most practical. The last time you were at your loved one’s house, did they seem to need anything? Toiletries, clothes, household appliances, and even food can all be highly appreciated gifts. If those ideas don’t seem quite festive enough, you could get your loved one a gift that is functional, but that they probably wouldn’t splurge on for themselves. A subscription to Blue Apron or a television streaming service, or a high-quality item like a plush scarf or a Magic Bullet are great ways to give a functional gift with a bit more pizzazz.
- Gift cards: If none of these ideas seem quite right, gift cards are always a possibility. However, you should be mindful that gift cards to chain establishments can easily be converted into cash, and gifting cash to someone who is currently using or new to recovery is generally inadvisable. Instead, try giving a gift card to a local store or small business. Gift cards to spas, museums, bookstores, and local coffeeshops or movie theaters are all great options.
At the end of the day, the holidays are about coming together and demonstrating your care for one another. Negotiating relationships with family members with substance use disorder, whether they are in recovery or not, is challenging, but this time of year is the perfect opportunity to reach out and show your support. Whether you are hoping to mend relationships after a period of distance or continue to strengthen current relationships, a thoughtful gift can be a step in the right direction.