Family Secrets and the Holidays – Should I Tell and Should I Go?

Lady Whispering into man's ear

Contributor: Jane McGuire, BS, Executive Assistant for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope

The holidays can be both wonderful and stressful for someone struggling with addiction. It is important to navigate the holidays with a well thought out plan for family events that feel more stressful to you than wonderful.

Addiction is a personal and private struggle that doesn’t have to be openly shared with everyone. And it can be very difficult to share with your family. Choose to reveal your struggle to loved ones wisely.

We all have family members that we love, and we all have those that family members that are more challenging. Maintaining boundaries for yourself in your recovery is okay, in fact, it’s encouraged. Placing yourself in stressful and potentially triggering situations should be carefully evaluated.

Sharing Your Secret

Sharing your addiction battle with a trusted family member can strengthen your support team. Having a family member or members who love, support and encourage you, can help with the often up and down journey to recovery.

Young woman sitting in ballYour loved one can assist you in avoiding triggering situations. They often know you well and can see when you are uncomfortable. Following up with you and doing a quick check in may be a huge help.

Deciding not to share with certain family members is okay too. Just like friends, we have family members who are close and those who are not.

If you feel concerned about sharing your addiction struggles with someone, hold off. It’s probably not the right time, and it may never be, and that’s okay.

Protecting Your Secret

The world is made up of so many wonderful people and personalities. Some are able to share their struggles openly, they become speakers and write books, sharing their addiction and recovery journey is easy for them.

Others are quiet, private, they share one to one and with a select group at a weekly meeting but could not bring themselves to discuss their battle with addiction in an open forum or with all of their family members. Both types of people are healthy and okay, their walk with sobriety just looks very different.

Your addiction story is just that, it’s yours. You decide how you share it and with whom. If you prefer to keep your addiction and recovery a secret within most of your family, only share with those family members that are secret keepers. Set boundaries around who you share with and who you don’t, and be clear with them.

Remember this is Your Choice

After deciding who and how you will share your addiction and recovery, consider the family events that are going on during the holidays.
Do you really need to attend the family event? This may be the year to start your own holiday tradition.

It could be that driving to see Christmas lights with a close friend and a hot chocolate is a much more attractive and healthy situation for you. Making a decision about what events to participate in and keeping those that are more difficult at a distance is okay, whether are you are struggling with addiction or not.

Happy Family PortraitFor example, having a family event that includes drinking or gambling may be triggering for you. If you are accustomed to participating, it may be hard to attend without joining in.

Protect yourself. In this situation, jeopardizing your sobriety to attend a family event is not worth the risk.

Before making your decision of whether or not to attend, share your family situation and concerns with your sponsor. Get his advice on how to handle the situation and do what is best for you and for your sobriety.

You may be in a healthier and much stronger place next year and want to attend. Or you may decide that Christmas lights with a close friend is an annual event.

Remember that these are your decisions, you are responsible for your recovery, and you can do it. Your family members may be helpful and encouraging, but your walk to sobriety has to be self-motivated to work.

Your decision to share, and your decision to attend family events is part of your recovery. It may change during the process as you grow stronger within your recovery. Seek advice from your sponsor or counselor, and make the most of your holidays! You got this!

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with sharing your recovery with family members? Did you share openly or were you selective on who you shared with, why?

Jane McGuireAbout the author: Jane McGuire is the Executive Assistant for Jacquelyn Ekern, Founder of Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope. Jane graduated from Eastern Oregon University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jane believes that everyone has a story of trial, that when shared, can be used to benefit and encourage someone else who is struggling to find hope and direction.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 15, 2015
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.