The holidays are a difficult time of year for those who struggle with addiction. Regret and failure are feelings that lead to blame, anger, and resentment. Many addicts are stressed about the expectations of their families and loved ones. They may have a desire to please those they love and feel the need to “perform” during holiday functions despite their addiction. Those who are bound by addiction often have to decide whether they will buy gifts or purchase their drug of choice. Sadly, this stress often drives them farther into their coping mechanisms and leads them to increased drug use and even overdose over the holidays.
It is also just as difficult for the family members who observe their addicted loved one going through the holidays either drunk or strung out. Family members feel helpless or angry at the situation. Basically, anxiety levels are extreme for the family and the addict alike. The desire to have the family get together can be strong with the hopes and desires to see their loved one get help, but it is important to set up the event so as not to enable their behavior.
Here are 8 Tips for Helping and Dealing with the Family Addict during the Holidays:
- Set Boundaries. Pick fair, yet concrete boundaries that are important to you and remain consistent that these boundaries must be adhered to in order to be welcomed to participate in the family festivities. But keep your boundaries simple, doable, short, and to the point! Boundaries are important to protect the holiday mood and spirit of the rest of the family. But be careful to not set boundaries to hurt the addicted family member, but rather just to help. Discuss these boundaries at least a week before the holiday activity is happening.
- Don’t bring up old examples of how they have let you down in the past, as doing so might provoke an argument. They know they have disappointed you and let you down. The holidays are a great opportunity to encourage them to get help and to show that you support them in getting the help they need. Remember 2 Timothy 2:24, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient…”
- Tell the other family members what the chosen arrangement is so that everyone is on the same page and there can be no surprises.
- Keep an open mind if your loved one opts out of the family festivities for one reason or another. They may not want to face the family. Try to respect that without placing guilt or judgment on them. Don’t try to coax them or sweet-talk them into coming. Instead, tell them again that they are welcome to the family event and they are loved.
- Keep your expectations in check. Realize that you are dealing with someone who might not be as true to their word as you would like them to be. This way you might be disappointed, but you won’t be surprised.
- Help the rest of the family to keep their expectations low as well.
- If your expectations are not met, please remember that this is not to offend you. It’s not personal; it’s just the nature of their addiction and what they may be struggling with at this particular time.
- Above all else, encourage them to get help. Use the holiday season to show them, with meekness, that you still love them no matter what, but you just want to see them get help. Remember II Timothy 2:25a, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.”
Let’s do our part to help our addicted loved ones and perhaps this may be the year we see the rest of the sentence come to pass….
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” – (2 Timothy 2:24-26)