It's that time of the year again, the holiday season is upon us and things may seem to be more chaotic than usual this time of the year. Whether your loved one is in recovery or they are still using drugs, many of us struggle.
Why does it seem like things are more chaotic and more difficult than usual? It's simple, when the family obligations start arising, many times our (addicts/alcoholics) shame and guilt comes to the surface. Many times, the family's resentments and judgments also come to the surface. Families often find family events to say their peace about what's been going on in the addicts/alcoholics life. Or they bring up painful memories of the past.
Maybe a lot of advice giving starts going around the addict/alcoholic that often sounds like judgement and criticism to the loved one.
If a person is still using drugs/alcohol, whether they admit it or not, their feelings of not belonging, of not feeling worthy or good enough, their feelings of having to deal with their families criticisms and judgments can often lead to using more. They act like a fool so you will be forced to not allow them at your house, and then they can go off and have a pity party for themselves and continue to use...justified...because they are "unloved." At least that's the bullshit they tell themselves.
If they are early in their recovery, it can be difficult because generally speaking, there is usually alcohol involved into family get togethers. That can be hard for someone early on. Overtime, as people in recovery learn to trust themselves, it gets easier. Early in recovery, there is a lot of pressure and new experiences they are having to go through, and they simply don't know how to do it sober.
Remember, even if they have 2-3 years sober, that's ONLY 2-3 times they have gotten the opportunity to experience the holidays sober after years of destruction around the holidays.
I could go on and on about why it's hard for addicts/alcoholics around the holidays but the important things is understanding what you can do to support and help them, whether they are in recovery or still active in their substance abuse.
Here are some tips. Yes this goes for all the aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, brother, spouses, cousins, etc.
1. Maintain your boundaries, but with a lot of love and compassion.
If you request they show up to the family get togethers sober, then maintain that and be clear about what the consequences are if they show up high/drunk and remind them of their choices. Of course you don't want them to be alone during the holidays, but if you have to ask them to leave, be sad, but don't feel guilty.
2. If they follow your rules and boundaries then just ENJOY them.
If they do show up sober and follow your rules and boundaries, putting pressure on them to change their life, get help they need, advice giving, airing out grievances, etc...you're just setting yourself up for an argument and them leaving. If you want to enjoy the holidays with your loved one, then ENJOY them. Praise them, love them, SHOW them how much you really care about them. No pressure, no advice, you will have your chance to air your grievances later on, for now, allow them to feel supported and connected to the family. I can't tell you how much of a difference this makes.
3. If they are new in recovery, they may need some space
Often people new in recovery have a hard time with family get togethers. There is a lot of shame, guilt, and other emotions they are trying to process and learn how to deal with. They can seem distant to the family in early recovery especially around the holidays. You may catch them outside on the phone more, they are probably calling their network because they are struggling with certain things. Maybe they are all too willing to run to the store several times or you find them sitting in a room alone to often. It doesn't mean necessarily they are sneaking around doing something bad (although that could be happening). It may simply mean they need a few minutes to get back grounded as they are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Allow them their process. Yes, even in recovery they can find themselves acting weird and off but by allowing them their process, they will be more likely to confide in you. Ask them if they are ok, be supportive. You don't have to take care of their emotions, they have their network to help them deal with stuff, but compassion and understanding goes a long way.
Many families are gearing up for the holidays full of dread about their loved ones, but if we can go into it with open hearts and open minds, we could make this holiday season better for the families. Keep the boundaries, let the anger go and fill your heart with love and compassion.
Please share with other family members and ENJOY your holidays!
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