If you struggle with finding the perfect gift for someone, you’re not alone! For someone in recovery, though, this would be a pretty unthoughtful gift! We’ve put together a list of some of the most problematic gifts you could give someone in recovery, why you should think twice about them, and some better suggestions.
In the relatively simple act of adjusting their gift-giving preferences, family and friends can better support their loved ones in recovery. Here we’ll discuss some of the gifts you should avoid giving to friends or family members who may be recovering from substance addiction. By choosing more thoughtful gifts, you’ll be able to demonstrate your support and show that you’re truly tuned into your friend or loved one’s ongoing commitment to stay sober.
Worst Gift #1: Gift Card to a Bar/Nightclub
If you know a favorite stomping ground of theirs, it may feel natural to get them a gift card there, but if it has a relationship to their previous drinking/use it may be a poor decision. In time, many people in recovery are able to attend night clubs and even bars where alcohol is served, but in that initial year of recovery, it’s important for them to avoid situations where substance temptations are likely to be found. Spending time around other people who are drinking can be a trigger for someone in recovery. These are precisely the types of places they should avoid; in fact, many people who are recovering from an addiction choose to avoid bars and night clubs completely—even long after their first year of recovery.
Instead of a gift card to a dance club or nightclub where drinking is a major activity among visitors, consider a gift card to a fancy restaurant that serves specialty cuisine. Even better–take them out to dinner yourself. It’s important for people in recovery to reconnect with supportive friends or family members. Take them out and treat them to a good time. Positive sober experiences can help them maintain their recovery journey.
Worst Gift #2: A Pet
Though not a normal gift for someone, you may be inclined to think having a companion would be helpful for someone in recovery, as a support animal. Caring for oneself can be challenging enough for someone who is in the process of transforming their life and swearing off drugs and alcohol. Although many people who are recovering do have pets and enjoy their companionship, this is a personal choice. Gifting someone a dog, cat, or an exotic pet not only places a burden of care on someone but also a financial burden that may not be their choice to take on. Animals do have a way of making people feel better, but they are not appropriate “surprise” gifts for anyone. Pet ownership must be an individual choice.
Instead of a puppy or kitten, choose a different sort of “interactive” gift like free horseback riding sessions. If you’re not sure if your recipient is the animal lover you are, play it safe and opt for a piece of exercise equipment. Fitness can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle and recovery plan. Workout clothing or gear is a much safer option than a dog or cat.
Worst Gift #3: A Wad of Cash
Who doesn’t like a big wad of cash for their birthday or as a holiday gift? Unfortunately, a significant amount of cash may not be the best gift to give someone who is in the early stages of their drug or alcohol recovery. That cash could pose a significant temptation to buy alcohol or drugs. Even if you know that the individual could use a large sum of money to rebuild aspects of their lives, it’s unwise to give it or it could be a trigger to revisit old habits.
Instead of a cash gift, consider gifting your loved one something they need like a week’s worth of groceries and snacks. They’ll need healthy food to rebuild their health in the aftermath of a drug or alcohol addiction. Putting together a food basket requires thought and time–something your recipient is sure to appreciate.
Worst Gift #4: Books About Recovery
Recovery-related books and literature may seem like thoughtful options to give someone who has recently left rehab, but they don’t actually want these items. Why not? Because they’ve spent a substantial part of their time working with a therapist and learning to manage their recovery with strategies tailored to their needs. Moreover, they may already have similar materials in their possession.
People who have departed from an addiction treatment center are now trying to return to their lives and create some normalcy. Giving them “reminder” gifts of their struggles may not be an appropriate way to remember someone’s birthday or graduation.
Instead of recovery literature or self-help books, opt for a gift that will help them enjoy their free time, like a gift certificate to a craft store. Crafting can be therapeutic for people in recovery because it helps support mindfulness. If your loved one or friend isn’t into crafts, consider gifting them a bookstore gift card so they can choose their own reading materials.
Worst Gift #5: Skydiving, Bungee Jumping, or Other Daredevil Experience
Gifting impulsive activities like skydiving or bungee jumping can unintentionally encourage people to throw caution to the wind. Daredevil living and engaging in activities that promote a decided adrenaline rush may not be the sorts of activities that a trained therapist would advise people in recovery to enjoy.
Instead of gifts designed to produce an adrenaline rush, consider one that promotes calm and relaxation instead, like a gift card to a day spa or yoga sessions. Maintaining sobriety often means replacing certain lifestyle activities with new ones that encourage mindfulness and serenity.
Show Your Support with a Thoughtful Gift
A thoughtful gift can really buoy the spirits of someone recovering from an addiction. You don’t have to wait for the holidays or a birthday to give your recovering friend or loved one a gift either. A gift can show that you care about what they’ve been going through and that you’re proud of their hard work and commitment to change. When you’re mindful about what’s so very central to their lives–their recovery journey–you’ll be able to demonstrate that you’re a true friend who cares about their continued recovery.
Not sure how to support a loved one who is recovering from an addiction? Contact FHE Health for advice. Families, in particular, can enable unhealthy behaviors or support behaviors that are good for recovery. By learning how to support your loved ones in the right ways, you can help them achieve lasting recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.