Holiday Help for an Addicted Loved One

Contributor: David Lisonbee, CEO, Twin Town Treatment Centers

Holidays are occasions of love, generosity and family. They are also times where you may encounter family conflicts and the face of alcoholism and addiction. How would you approach a family member or friend’s alcoholic and addictive behavior?

Are the holidays the best time to address these problems? Do you tend to turn away to pretend that such problems are minor and don’t everything is fine and that the destructive behavior of a loved one doesn’t affect you?

To answer any of these questions, take a look at yourself. Are you motivated to address this problems at last from the benevolent care for your family or are self-defense and preservation the driving forces? Are you acting from a place of concern and love, or are you reacting from the fear and pain of past injuries?

Gauge your readiness for the task. Evaluate the present likelihood of success.

Thoughts and Strategies for the Holiday Season

These motives, both constructive and destructive are natural and legitimate. Begin by being honest with yourself.

Hopefully this writing will provide you some helpful thoughts and strategies for the holiday season. Your loved-one’s behavior has likely harmed you and others for a very long time, especially around the Holidays.

Drinking and drugging become a norm as are the anger, frustration, shame and grief of family members. Your anticipation, fear, and anxieties may stem from the personal risks and threat posed by the very person who you would help.

They become unpredictable and sometimes dangerous when under the influence. Family traumas have reinforced beliefs, ideas, feelings and behaviors that push you to feel, think and act in unhealthy and unhelpful ways.

Protection and Safety are Necessary

Before becoming useful to anyone, you must provide yourself protection and safety.

The practicing alcoholic/ addict is immersed in a world of immediate rewards, and the avoidance of pain and emotional turmoil. Their view on the world, including you are distorted by their psychological and physical dependence on alcohol and drugs. Those chemicals have become centered and all-important in their life.

Your choices are simple: blame yourself; ‘blame them; ‘blame the chemical. Blame will I increase negative outcomes and consequences. Step off the playing field- step out of the game!

Set Your Plan of Action

pair-539477_640Set your plan of action, establish your boundaries, and constantly act on them. If you react as in the past, you become ineffective or destructive. Stop and leave the scene before the games begin.

You are only responsible and in control of your behavior. If you attempt to control others especially addicts, you will increase everyone’s pain, anger, resentment and fear. Setting yourself up for failure, your actions result in worse results. Stop!

It feels natural at this point in your relationship to react and dance with the same problems as always but the problems are perpetuated- no changes result and everyone is the worse for it.

Accepting the Dimensions of a Problem

Change often creates anxiety and fear- fear of the unknown. Rather than change, we comfortably use self-defeating defenses such as denial or rationalization. These responses maintain the status quo. Nothing improves.

Accepting the reality and dimensions of a problem is first and most important stage of change (and recovery). Accepting the potential of losing your addicted loved one before you set out to help them allows you space from which to view and act on the relationship. Most of all, this fact will free and protect you.

You must accept that you cannot change their behavior; you cannot engage them in recovery. Don’t make this your problem since both of you will then focus on you. Your loved one must arrive at the reality that this is their problem, not yours or others. Arousing defensiveness defeats the purpose and blocks progress.

Address Them While They Are Sober

Only address your loved one’s problem while they are sober. Nothing will be gained if their consciousness is altered or if you’re talking to the drink or drug. During the holidays these conversations must made before holiday events, early in the week and early in the day.

Make a commitment to you, your sick loved-one and all involved that if the person appear under the influence or uses, you will cease to associate and leave the scene. If they use or appear under the influence at your place, call them a cab.

If you are elsewhere and they appear to be using/ drinking then you leave. Hold to the agreement in the face of judgment, inconvenience and manipulation.

Set Expectations

businessman-449927_640Set an expectation with your sick loved one that if they want to engage or reengage in a relationship with you, they have to be sober and doing something to maintain that sobriety. Let them know that temporary postures or “cutting back” is not enough to continue a relationship with them. Let them know that you’d love to relate to the person you used to know.

Becoming dramatic or evoking emotional reactions will be counteractive since your addicted loved one will need their chemical to cope. Alcohol and drugs are used to avoid such situations and feelings.

Allow your loved one to bear the weight and responsibility for their disease and the decision about what will be their next step. You don’t want their actions to simply reflect hostility or resentment toward you and other.

Avoid Bad Routines

Catch yourself before “going there”. You know how to voice disappointment, frustration and anger.

Instead of submitting to the routine habit, attend a mutual support group, discuss the situation with someone who is professional or shares similar experience, write it down, open yourself up to viewing or considering the problem from different points of view.

Do what is uncomfortable and take new action. Look after yourself. Your loved one will do what they need to do without the reaction they may normally encounter from past interactions.

Engage in Therapy of All Types

Engaging in recreational and therapeutic activities is essential during the holidays. Energy, positive attitude, initiative and creativity with lend toward a better experience for you and better results interacting with other.

Balancing work, home, leisure, recreation and physical exercise are essential toward maintain resilience and to build energy from which action can be taken. Encountering and interacting with loved ones with substance use disorders draw out negative reaction and fatigue. Seek:

  • Social support
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Healthy diet
  • Supportive social relationships
  • Spiritual practices
  • Rest…

Finally, seek out mutual support groups, treatment centers, professional therapists and interventionists. Defend against the effects of addiction- it is a lonely disease for all effected.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What types of recreational and therapeutic activities have you found to be helpful in Addiction Recovery during the holidays?

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

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 13th, 2014
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