Watching someone we love go through the push, pull and pain of addiction is never easy. Approaching the holiday season, families traditionally plan get-togethers in hope to express gratitude for those they love and for the life we are blessed to live. However, when addiction is present in your household, the traditional cheerful holiday slips out of sight.

When addiction arises in the family, the foundation is rocked and the lives around us get disrupted. According to SAMHSA, the disease of drug and alcohol addiction currently affects over 20 million people and their families in the United States. Among those affected, addiction can make it hard to find gratitude in even the smallest of moments, especially during the holiday season.

Reduce Holiday Stress Caused by Addiction

A peaceful season seems nearly impossible for those with substance addiction and their loved ones. Without a doubt, dealing with addiction during the holidays is tough, let alone battling it at all. For those of us who have felt the weight of addiction and the destruction that it can cause, the holiday season is known to place some extra unneeded strain on us.

During the few months of winter, it is normal to find ourselves overwhelmed, as we tend to the needs of others and fulfill their expectations. However, it is important to make the most of the holiday by taking care of yourself and making your needs a top priority.

This year, the practice of self-care, or ‘primarily taking care of yourself,’ may just be the key you need to having a less stressful holiday. Self-care helps all who utilize it and limits strenuous encounters in all aspects of his or her life. Similarly, self-care will assist with one’s ability to gracefully cope with unexpected and emotionally draining circumstances that tend to occur on a regular basis.

Being aware of your needs and having the ability to meet them is necessary for effectively managing stress, overbearing emotions as well as any grief being experienced. Whether you are in recovery from addiction, still active in addiction or a loved one of the addicted, having an understanding of your needs this holiday season is of utmost importance.

Holiday Challenges for Addicted Loved Ones

During the holidays, those who struggle with drug addiction and/or alcoholism tend to display patterns in their behavior that can cause frustration and confusion for the family. Unlike stress for the average person, individuals living with addiction experience intense feelings of stress surrounding issues such as family, money, and, upholding sobriety.

Family get-togethers during the holidays results in loads of stress for addicted individuals, whether he or she is currently in recovery or not.

Participating in family functions can place your addicted loved one in an uncomfortable and vulnerable position. This vulnerability most often comes from being submerged back into the dynamics of the family as well as where his or her addiction first began to develop.

Whether in recovery or not, the stress felt by those who have to live with an addicted mind is often rooted in the family dynamic as well as where his or her addiction first began. Generally, the stress is magnified when those who are in recovery have not yet addressed any family-related issues, but there are several other reasons this degree of stress may occur.

When families get together for the holidays it is common for those in recovery to avoid being around his or her family for extended periods of time. This usually causes the family to have feelings of uncertainty, confusion, and even disappointment. However, there are reasons for the avoidant behavior being displayed by your addicted loved one.

For those who live with the disease, there’s often a great amount of fear associated with family gatherings, such as the presence of alcohol or drugs, feelings of shame, depression, social anxiety, and loneliness. Overall, the holidays are a rather delicate time for individuals who are personally impacted by the disease of addiction.

Why Holidays Are Difficult for Friends and Family of the Addicted

As you already know, addiction is a malicious disease that affects not just one person, but the whole family. Addiction wreaks havoc on the entire family of the afflicted individual while disassembling any engrained dynamics of the home. Some may believe that things will be different during the holidays, as if everything will magically be fine for this time of year.

Unfortunately, for the friends and family impacted by addiction, the common theme of holiday cheer and togetherness becomes dominated by feelings of anger and, ultimately, a fear of the unknown. It is a rather common pattern for us, as family, to stay jam-packed and busy. This overwhelming busyness is often an aim to avoid any of the heart-wrenching problems that are present in our life.

One of the many reasons the holidays are difficult for the friends and family members of addicted loved ones is because of the high emotions experienced by us and by those around us. Heightened feelings of guilt, remorse, sadness, depression, and concern for your loved one are often significantly increased and justifiably so.

When someone we love is proactively abusing his or her own life, we feel it tear into our hearts as if it were happening to us. The reality is, that coping with the destruction of addiction and/or an addicted loved one changes the joy of family get-togethers during the holidays, but this should not have the power to strip us of all happiness. Although addiction is painful to deal with, it is important for our health and heart that we can find gratitude in even the smallest of moments.

Choosing Gratitude Over Stress

For individuals dealing with the difficulty of addiction, the stress can ultimately feel intolerable. At A Better Today Recovery Services, we believe that regardless of the heart-ache addiction causes, each and every one of us deserves to experience a grateful heart this holiday season.
To achieve this, we encourage you and your loved ones to establish a holiday that works best for the mind and heart of each individual. Instead of pushing away harsh feelings, try to acknowledge these feelings and accept that this holiday season may be more difficult than usual is a start in the right direction.

A well-known saying throughout addiction recovery communities is, “live and let live.” This saying sends a positive message of removing yourself from the center of other people’s lives.

As humans, we do not have the power to control the outcomes of our situations, nor do we have the power to control decisions made by others. Therefore, it is best that we live, taking optimal care of ourselves, and let live, letting others live their lives as they see fit.

Now, this does not mean we need to completely shut others out of our lives. To live and let live, allows us to help our loved ones find joy amongst the painful emotions felt during the holidays. It allows us to treat ourselves, as well as one another with the love, compassion and empathy we all need.
Stress and uncertainty are bound to arise over the holidays, but we want you to know you are not alone, not in heart, mind or spirit. At A Better Today Recovery Services, we wish you and your loved ones the warmth of peace and a grateful heart this holiday season.