COLORADO SPRINGS — The holidays bring with them parties, work celebrations, family gatherings and more. Oftentimes, alcohol is present at many, if not all, of these parties.

Alcoholism is more prevalent that you may believe. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 14.5 million people ages 12 and older had alcohol use disorder, also known as AUD.

Addiction recovery wellness strategist Fay Zenoff said that while she does believe harm-reduction is a viable model of treatment and there is not only abstinence or addition, that often harm-reduction plans for those struggling with alcoholism, substances or anything else often looks like an “all or nothing” model, meaning that the key to success within the program is learn to live without the substance or to continue living with addiction.

“It’s important to have difficult conversations about the difficulty of addiction,” Zenoff said. “Frankly, everything you know about addiction is wrong. The opposite of addiction isn’t recovery–it’s connection. Connection is key.”

Zenoff is referring to this TedTalk entitled “Everything you know about addiction is wrong”.

Another aspect of recovery from addiction Zenoff addressed was how we interpret hard conversations and our fears compounded with them.

“We need to re-think our models of hard love. It has to come from a place of love, like saying ‘Hey, I’m worried about you. If you have any concerns about your consumption, I’m here to help’,” Zenoff said.

She said that often in the past, hard love looked like shaming or guilt-tripping the individual struggling into making a change from their current behavior—a strategy that does not work. What actually works is encouraging the individual that you’re both there to help them and that you’re willing to listen as they open up, if they so choose.

“What I’ve found is that owning that part of myself and talking about it has allowed me to transform that shame to vulnerability, humility and an opening for connection and help,” Zenoff said.

A large part of addressing addiction is understanding the pain that comes with stigma.

“When we can recognize the importance of language and define that for ourselves, we can be empowered to own our own narrative and help others—and that is de-stigmatization,” Zenoff said. “It requires courage to own it and then to have the courage to speak about it and part of that is a journey.”

Zenoff encourages anyone seeking out ways to lovingly have difficult conversations with those that they love in their life to visit her website found here.

Other resources she recommended are as follows: