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Family and Addiction - Top Tips to Surviving the Holiday Season

As the end of 2020 approaches (and what a year it has been), families around the world are frantically preparing holiday gatherings filled with food, connection, love and joy. Yet for those who have a loved one in active addiction, a heavy fog shrouds what should be a celebratory season.

Teresa, the mother of a drug-addicted daughter now in recovery, states “Living with a loved one, who had a drug addiction, was like living with an imposter. Lying awake at night, waiting to hear the sound of her car, hoping she was safe wherever she was.” So if every day with an addict is a heart-wrenching challenge, the stress and anticipation of the Holiday Season will only amplify these feelings.

Coping With the Holidays With a Family Member in Addiction

On top of having to organise a month’s worth of holiday activities and events, parents, siblings, children and spouses must also contend with the worry, fear, anger and sadness of not knowing what this time of year will bring with their addicted family member. Do not fret. There is hope! You and your family can enjoy and get through the Holiday Season this year by following these five simple steps.

1.Focus On Those In Front of You

Addiction is a family disease that impacts the whole family system in direct and indirect ways. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence advises, “one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence.” As a result, those who have a family member in active addiction live in a state of hyper arousal and anxiety is the norm.

The social effects of living with an individual who actively uses can be devastating. Loved ones can often face stigma, judgment and gossip, causing them to feel ostracised and alone.

When special occasions like the holidays arise, the thought of what people are thinking and having to explain where your loved one is can be incomprehensible. You may have the urge to cancel events and isolate from family and friends. Isolation may seem like a great idea; however, it can lead to further feelings of stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness.

Dealing with an addicted family member can be an exhausting task. For most of the year, the attention is taken away from siblings, spouses, parents and other family members as you try to come to terms with your circumstances. The key to creating a united and festive atmosphere over the holidays requires you to focus on your loved ones who have suffered enough.

Arrange events with people who are aware and supportive of your circumstances and make you and your family feel safe. Let your support system know how you feel and what your needs may be over the Holidays. When it comes to cooking and gift-giving, keep it simple and try not to overwhelm yourself.

You cannot control the addict in your life but you can control how you choose to live this Holiday Season with the ones you love.

2.Identify Your Expectations and Let Them Go

As the Holiday Season approaches, many families create an image in their minds of how it ‘should’ or ‘could’ be. You may even have different scenarios playing in your mind like:

“Will she show up this year?”

“If she does show up, what state will she be in?”

Maybe we can keep a better eye on her if she is home.”

“Being away from her using environment may help us get through to her.” “With her home, we can control her using.”

“Maybe she will have a miraculous spiritual awakening and show up to Christmas lunch clean and sober and full of merry cheer!”

Unfortunately, this wishful thinking is setting yourself, and your addicted loved one up for failure. Instead, put aside some time to reflect on the expectations you may have in your mind. As they start to become apparent, jot them down and share them with someone you trust like an Al-Anon member, therapist or friend.

Lastly, as stated by Teresa, “Christmas is a special time for our large Italian family. When my daughter was in active addiction, Alanon taught me that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’ In sharing my deepest fears and sadness with trusted support my expectations started losing their power, I was able to move into a place of acceptance and become present for the people who really needed me.”

3.Avoid Giving Money and Gifts

The purchasing of sentimental presents for your loved ones and, seeing the happy look on their faces when they open them is priceless. The exchange of gifts over the holidays can be the most rewarding part of the year. When it comes to your addicted loved one, you may be feeling torn between wanting them to feel included in the festivities and not wanting to enable their using. Although it may sound harsh, you and your extended family and friends should avoid giving gifts or money to your addicted family member.

You might think a new necklace or $50 to buy groceries is a safe and loving gesture; however, the reality is what you are gifting them is drug and alcohol money.

There are many ways you can help your loved one feel included. You can write them a card letting them know how much they mean to you, offer to take them out for a nice meal, suggest paying for outpatient treatment such as drug and alcohol counseling or if you are in a financial position to, pay for inpatient treatment.

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4.Set Boundaries and Be Ready To Say NO!

Setting boundaries with a loved one in active addiction can be difficult and almost impossible. Their demands are relentless, as Teresa mentions, “The lies and harassment for money became a regular occurrence, day or night”, which often leads to family members saying ‘yes’ in exchange for some peace rather than sticking to your guns and saying ‘no.’

Around this time of year, your loved one is more likely to begin pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules. Ways in which the addict could begin manipulating you include:

  • Asking for money to purchase Christmas presents for family and friends.
  • Guilt-tripping you into giving them money if you choose not to purchase them gifts.
  • Start saying things like “you are never there for me, you owe me.”
  • Bringing their using buddies to your house or family event to intimidate or cause a scene.
  • Rocking up to gatherings when they were asked not to.
  • Going through you and your families valuables such as purses and gifts.

For most addicts, this time of year is a goldmine of opportunity if they are let loose in your home. If you are planning on inviting your loved one to any Holiday events, you and your family must prepare physical and internal boundaries.

Finally, let the addict know before they arrive what the rules of the house are. Be sure to support each other in sticking to ‘no’ if the addict demands money, gifts or alcohol. You may ask them not to use or drink around you, to remain in the living area only and, if there is an escalation of violent or abusive behaviour, they will have to leave. It is also imperative to lock away any valuable items such as jewelry, electronics, and large sums of cash or anything of high value in a safety lockbox. Setting up mutual boundaries will give you and your family the strength to get through the holidays united and keep focused on each other rather than the behaviour of the addict.

You might think a new necklace or $50 to buy groceries is a safe and loving gesture; however, the reality is what you are gifting them is drug and alcohol money.

There are many ways you can help your loved one feel included. You can write them a card letting them know how much they mean to you, offer to take them out for a nice meal, suggest paying for outpatient treatment such as drug and alcohol counseling or if you are in a financial position to, pay for inpatient treatment.

5.Self-Care Alone and With Your Family

Tending to your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being should be a priority during the holidays for you and your family. The high energy of spending time with family along with dealing with the absence or behaviour of the addict can leave you feeling spent.

As a family or alone, find some time in the day to meditate, check-in with each other and share feelings or concerns, watch a movie together, get to a few Alanon meetings and have regular naps. Finding things to do that relieve stress and anxiety can give you the strength to get through the holidays as well as coping with your addicted love one.

If you would like more information on how addiction affects families, the team at Seasons Bali have made their E-Book ‘Am I Living With an Addict’, written by Jackson Oppy, available free of charge over the holiday season.

For more information on our treatment program and how we can help you loved one, please contact us today.

 

Transformation Starts Here

Taking that first step towards recovery is one of the most powerful things you can do. If you or a family member need help and you want to get the best treatment possible, get in touch with us now. With over twenty years of helping people to find peace in recovery, we are South East Asia’s Leading Addiction Treatment Centre.

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