How Families of Addicts can get through the Holidays
The holidays are a merry time to spend with family and close friends. However, for many, spending time with family means also spending time with a family member struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction. This can put a damper on the holiday season since the joyous family get-together can quickly turn into arguments and finger pointing. If you intend to include a family member in active addiction during the holidays, there are a few things families of addicts should first consider.
Families of Addicts are the Ones in Control
First and foremost, you need to understand that you are in control. Those addicted to drugs or alcohol can be manipulative and can say hurtful things to make you feel guilty about their problems. Do not allow them to ruin your family’s holiday season. Speak up if you are uncomfortable being around a loved one who is destroying himself or herself with drugs or alcohol. You do not have to spend time with them just because it’s the holiday season. Either do not attend yourself or tell them that they are not invited to the family event. Have your own holiday celebration if you know that you cannot control the individual or the situation.
Sometimes the addict in the family that refuses help for their addiction should not be allowed to partake in family activities. He or she must decide on their own that they need help and want to be a part of family gatherings. Family members, especially children, do not need to be around someone who adamantly refuses to put down the bottle and robs the family of holiday joy. What seems like being gracious or keeping the holiday spirit can actually be a form of enabling.
Families of Addicts Setting Boundaries
If you do decide to include a family member with an untreated substance use disorder in the holiday festivities, you need to lay down some boundaries. Firstly, the individual must know that no matter what, you will not tolerate drug or alcohol use by them at all. If they behave like they drunk or high, they should know that they will be asked to leave right away. If you feel comfortable doing so, don’t serve alcohol at your holiday gatherings. Sometimes it is better to skip the glass of champagne in order to have a peaceful time. Also, tell other family members about your expectations so they can hold that family member to the same standards. The families of addicts should all be on the same page when it comes to dealing with the addicted loved one.
Make sure you are prepared for a guilt trip. You loved one may try to make you feel bad for setting boundaries, but don’t fall for it. They are used to immediate gratification and are looking for you to enable them. If they tell you that your rules or expectations are unfair, be prepared to explain that you’re sorry that they won’t be joining their family for the holiday season. Make it clear that you will not bend just because it’s the holidays and that it is their choice to participate, but if they do so they must adhere to the rules.
Families of Addicts with A Gentle Heart
When setting boundaries for an addicted family member during the holidays, you should be careful to embrace gentle heart. During this emotional time of year, don’t dwell on the addict’s past events or actions from previous holidays. Families of addicts should try to avoid conflict, especially if that family member is trying their best to abide by your set boundaries. If you bring up past occurrences or choose not to give them the benefit of the doubt, they may feel unwanted and hurt. This may cause them to lash out by drinking or using more substances than usual. Be the person with the level head in your family. Try to communicate with a gentle approach and a kind heart.
Your Expectations for the Holidays
Addiction can make people unpredictable; prepare for anything. The addict or alcoholic in your family may decide to abstain from activities. Do not beg them to come or feel that it is your fault that they aren’t present. They struggle with a disease. By giving into their desires, you are enabling their addiction. Ultimately, they need to decide they need help. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling guilty or wanting to chase after them. Additionally, don’t let them take the happiness out of this joyous season. Yes, it is unfortunate that they struggle with addiction; but that does not mean that it has to ruin your holidays. Watching someone battle with substance abuse is heart-wrenching, but it also teaches us to be grateful for what we have.