It seems like everyone around us is having the perfect Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, while we, the loved ones of an active addict, suffer from worry and anxiety over our loved one’s addiction, even more so at this time of year.
We may be more stressed, tired, and overwhelmed by all the additional tasks the holidays tend to bring which can decrease our ability to deal with the active addiction that is going on in our household.
We obsess over how many drinks the alcoholic has or look for drugs and paraphernalia if our loved one is a drug addict.
We might isolate and decline invitations from coworkers, friends, and family because we fear what our addict might do in front of everyone.
There are so many reasons the holidays can be full of worry, fear, guilt, sadness, anxiety, and anger, it can be difficult to imagine being able to relax and enjoy this time of year.
We believe it is possible to muster a genuine smile and even have a laugh worthy of St. Nick himself! Read on for our six tips to a Happy Holiday Season despite having active addiction in your home.
Active addiction can blur boundaries and even annihilate them if you’re not consciously aware.
Especially when it is a spouse or our child that has a substance abuse problem, it can be so challenging to know what appropriate boundaries are, how to communicate them clearly, and not move the boundary lines we’ve set once we’ve placed them.
This can be especially challenging this time of year as the holidays bring up memories of happier times (before the addiction) and we can find ourselves trying to recreate these memories instead of accepting the reality of our current situation.
If we’ve had to kick the addict out of the house, particularly if they are our child, we may feel guilty even thinking about smiling, much less having fun, during the holidays.
Or we may feel nostalgic, and guilt may be urging us to reach out even though we would be enabling and likely causing harm to the addict by doing so.
Setting healthy boundaries means identifying what you will and will not do for and tolerate from the addict in your life.
It also means doing the same thing concerning your behavior, which can come as a surprise to many loved ones.
Therefore, if you had good reason to ask the addict to leave your home before the holidays and they are still actively using or drinking, stick to the boundary now.
If the addict is still living with you, set solid boundaries around holiday activities. For instance, they are welcome at holiday gatherings if they are clean or sober, but if they become high or intoxicated, they will be shown the door.
This could also extend to abusive language or actions, causing others in attendance to feel uncomfortable or unsafe, and anything else you decide you do not wish to tolerate.
If the addict does become high or intoxicated, you must be prepared to follow through with the consequences you established ahead of time.
If you do have to ask the addict to leave, plan for their safe travel home or wherever they are headed.
Discussing boundaries and consequences for the addict with other family members and friends who will attend holiday gatherings may be helpful, so you’re all on the same page and supporting each other should the situation arise.
You don’t want arguments to break out involving other people because they may not fully understand the gravity of the problem you are dealing with.
This can make enforcing a boundary even more challenging in the heat of the moment.
Conversely, if everything is discussed before the engagement, everyone will share the same understanding of the situation providing you with the support you need to get through a complicated process.
Help can be sought and found other ways as well. Support groups designed for loved ones of addicts found in rehabilitation centers or 12 Step groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon can connect you with other people going through the same or similar challenges that you are.
It can be such a relief to know that you’re not the only one struggling during the holidays with active addiction in your home!
You will also have a network of people to call when things get tough, and this can make a huge difference in how well you can navigate the situation.
Therapists that understand addiction can also be extremely helpful. The important thing here is to ensure that you do not isolate out of shame, guilt, worry, fear or anxiety!
Don’t try to deal with the addiction all alone – it will become massively overwhelming and can lead to all kinds of unnecessary suffering for you, your family, and the addict in your lives.
When making holiday plans with an active addict, be realistic about their track record in reliability.
For instance, if it’s your spouse and you have plans to attend a rendition of The Nutcracker at the local theater, know that these plans may need to morph into something else when the big night comes.
Your addict could be drunk or high or simply be engaging in harmful, disease-driven behaviors and ultimately flake out on you.
The key is planning for this possibility ahead of time.
Your Plan B could be to explain the situation to a trusted friend and see if they would be interested in a last-minute invitation to join you should your spouse not be able to do so.
Your Plan C could be to attend the theatre alone and still enjoy your evening despite what may be going on at home.
Having multiple options can help you to find a way on a moment’s notice to still have a terrific time and not need to wallow in self-pity, disappointment, or anger that the addict isn’t coming through for you.
This will also help prevent you from engaging with the addict in drama or in acts of enabling as you will be keeping your focus on yourself and your plans.
Taking care of yourself when you are busy trying to take care of the addict and their responsibilities for them can feel so counter-intuitive.
It is so common for loved ones of the addict to get caught up in caretaking and enabling that they complete forget to take care of themselves, even the most basic of needs such as bathing, eating, or brushing their hair.
With the additional overwhelm that the holiday season often brings, the situation with self-care can seriously deteriorate quickly.
It is paramount that you focus on getting plenty of sleep, exercise, and eating healthy when you’re dealing with active addiction and even more so during the holidays.
These are both high-stress situations happening simultaneously, and if you let your self-care go, you can end up seriously ill as a result.
Besides the basics, make time to feel your feelings and to have fun and laugh. Both will help lighten your load and lift your spirits. It may seem impossible to laugh with all the heaviness that can surround addiction.
Make a concerted effort to seek out things you can truly enjoy such as a funny movie or a comedy club. You must make the time to put your needs first; we know it sounds strange, but this works!
If you are well-taken care of, you will be in a better position to handle whatever else may come your way.
This time of year, most people have a very narrow vision about their perfect holiday scenario. Why? Because they are rooted in their traditions and “this is the way we always do it” thinking. This can be a lot of fun for many people.
The holidays usually also trigger in us a lot of childhood memories and nostalgia, along with trying to recreate the past, can bring joy or heartache, depending on the person’s situation.
If you have active addiction in your home, being attached to expectations for how the holidays should be or how they are going to go can set you up for major disappoint, resentment, anxiety, and even depression. By creating new holiday traditions and letting go of expectations, it is possible to have a joyful holiday season no matter what the addict does or doesn’t do because the new traditions will purposefully not be centered around the addict in your life.
For example, one Christmas tradition we had in our home growing up was for my father to read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ to the entire family right before bedtime.
If my father was suffering from active addiction and either was passed out, too drunk or high, or not even home to fulfill this tradition, there would have been a lot of upset, sadness, disappointment, feelings of abandonment, and probably anger too.
Or let’s say it wasn’t my father, but instead it was my older brother that fell prey to the disease of addiction and was not present for the reading for whatever the reason.
One option would be to tweak the tradition and have a different family member lead the reading each year.
Another option would be to forego the tradition and do something entirely different but just as fun this year that wouldn’t depend on my father (or brother) being present.
Maybe we play a board game and have popcorn, or watch a funny movie, as long as we do something different.
Or if you have a tradition of drinking champagne with strawberries to ring in the New Year, maybe change it up slightly or drastically.
A slight change could mean coming up with a fun non-alcoholic beverage to drink.
A drastic change could be not partying at all and enjoying a quiet evening at home or even meditating in the New Year.
And none of these ideas necessarily mean the addict isn’t invited, it just means the activity or tradition can no longer be sabotaged if they don’t participate.
You may still feel some sadness or upset because your loved one isn’t there or isn’t clean and sober, but your overall expectations will have shifted. And it’s perfectly ok to feel whatever you’re feeling, this also isn’t about denying how you feel. It’s just another shift in programming to help make a challenging situation more tolerable.
Even with active addiction in your home, it is possible to find positive things on which to focus. Start a gratitude journal and list ten things each day for which you are grateful.
It can be as simple as breathing, having a roof over your head, food to eat, and so on. It can be the same things every day or different. It doesn’t matter.
When we focus our mind on what is right, it will immediately look for more good things, and this can be a real perspective shifter.
Often, we may find ourselves criticizing, nagging, or scolding the addict for their unhealthy behaviors, unwillingness to change or to seek help.
If we change our focus to one of acceptance, understanding our loved one has a destructive disease and isn’t behaving this way to hurt us intentionally, we might find ourselves noticing the things we love about the addict in our life, even when they are drunk, high or misbehaving.
By employing these six tips, our entire holiday season can shift from one of misery, disappointment, and anger to one of acceptance, contentment, and even joy that can carry us into the New Year and beyond!
Our amazing Recovery Center has talented and skilled professionals that can help you with your Holiday Planning issues.
If you need help with your recovery, you can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.
The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with all of your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment. Call anytime.
Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.
Coping With Christmas In Recovery
As an ex addict and alcoholic, I know that being in recovery from drugs and alcohol can make Christmas a tricky time. Here I share the ways I cope and how I make sure I avoid difficult situations and minimise risk of relapse of the holiday season.