Life Stories

For Your Famiy: Coping with addiction and recovery during the holidays


Dr. Joy Ryba (Ree-buh), clinical director of Midwest Counseling


For many, the holidays can be a time to indulge in food and drink, but for those who are dealing with eating disorders or alcohol addiction, holiday feasts can put stress on an already challenging recovery process.  Dr. Joy Ryba, clinical director of Midwest Counseling in River North, offers some advice about how to cope for people eating disorders and alcohol addiction and for their friends and family.

 Midwest Counseling

650 N. Dearborn Street

Chicago, IL 60654

(312) 291-9570



What are the most important things for people who are in recovery to do?

  1. Have a game plan and visualize success.
    1. Know your arrival and departure time – and have your own transportation.
    2. If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, talk with your dietician beforehand about how to make food choices at the party.
    3. Practice your script – what you are going to say when people ask you why you aren’t drinking or when they make well-meaning comments like “you’ve lost weight” or “you’re eating so healthy.”
    4. Know what you’ll do if things get hard – I recommend finding a quiet space and phoning a friend or sponsor.
    5. Have a support system. It might include a therapist, a sober friend, a support group, a 12-step program, a dietician, etc.
    6. Book-end your holiday parties with time with your support system – for example, go to a meeting before the party and plan to meet up with your sponsor after.
  2. Take care of yourself.
    1. Take any medication regularly.
    2. Get plenty of sleep, moderate exercise, and fresh air.