Today’s topic is not a particularly happy one, but as anyone who has gone through a healing process can tell you avoiding hard topics won’t make them go away. Today we’d like to share a few of our thoughts about addiction and the holidays.
Many people only get to see family members and distant friends a few times a year and the holidays are often one of those times. It’s great to see old faces and catch up, but there are often a lot of family issues to deal with over turkey and pie. Sibling rivalries can flare up over nothing, old grievances can blossom into new shouting matches, and the behavior and habits of our families can be too close to ignore.
Addiction and the Holidays
While the holiday traditions are meant to be nice, it can also be a stressful time of year, which is double trouble for people living with an addiction. Stress can trigger cravings and even the threat of confrontation can make addicts severely difficult to manage. Some may see the holidays as the right time to challenge their family member’s addictive behavior. This is understandable as with the strength of numbers around the season there may be a feeling that a significant breakthrough has to occur when everyone is together. As well meaning as this sentiment may be, there are some things to keep in mind before trying to stage your own yuletide intervention.
Now, just to be clear, addiction is an extremely serious medical condition that has to be addressed quickly and thoroughly. It is a condition that requires some serious and often difficult conversations with family members and friends in order to get on the path to recovery. That being said there are productive ways and some counterproductive ways to intervene in a friend or family member’s addiction. It would be wise to consult with an addiction specialist before attempting any action by yourself or as a family/friend group.
If you believe or know outright that a friend or family member is suffering from addiction this holiday season, don’t resign yourself to inaction; be a positive force for them on their path to healing by keeping these tips in mind.
1. Accept that an addict is probably not going to ask for your help.
Even when the negative effects of an addiction are obvious to everyone else, addicts may be unlikely to seek the assistance of people they love and trust. If someone does come to you for help, that’s fantastic, but helping them recover will probably require you to be more proactive.
2. The journey toward wellness begins with education.
Take some time this holiday season to observe the behaviors of your suffering family member. When do they use? How often? How can you tell when they are high? Write these things down as they may be diagnostically relevant. See if you can find out more about specifically what type of substance they are abusing and learn as much about it as possible. Knowledge really is power when it comes to fighting addiction. You may not be able to reason with an addict about their behavior, but you can put that behavior into some helpful context with a little research.
3. Avoid ultimatums.
If your family is trying to take on a member’s addiction as a group there will invariably be one member of the group who is so emotional about the subject that they are unable to provide constructive input into the process. They may wish to confront someone suffering from addiction directly and offer them unyielding conditions to set benchmarks for recovery on their terms. While this is completely understandable behavior, it’s simply not how addiction works.
Most serious addicts know that they have a destructive medical condition, but are simply not capable of altering their behavior without help. It’s not a matter of willpower. You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer to get better right away or you’re going to kick them out of your house. The same is true for people suffering from addiction. Talk with an addiction specialist before giving in to the tempting, but ultimately self defeating, strategy of offering addicts ultimatums.
4. Understand the feelings involved with addiction and the holidays.
Remember, it’s the holidays and there is already enough stress to go around. Difficult conversations need to be had, especially if an addiction poses an eminent medical threat, but it’s important not to expect instant results no matter what the Christmas specials on TV say. If you really want to make a difference this holiday season let the addict in your life know that you love them and that you are available to help try a new set of behaviors. Don’t avoid the topic of addiction, but don’t let your own feelings stand in the way of their recovery.
5. Seek assistance.
No one recovers from addiction by themselves. It would be nice if we could just sit under the Bodhi Tree and purge our corporeal selves of their imperfections, but the road to recovery is less miraculous and more nuanced than that. It’s a journey of many steps and it is a journey that must be taken with other people. If you suspect there may be an addict among your family or friends, don’t delay, reach out to professionals who can help you. At the Colorado Recovery Infusion Center in Denver we have the experience and compassion to help. If you or someone you know needs our help this holiday season, we hope you’ll reach out to us.