The festive season is hectic and stressful at the best of times, but when you have a loved one struggling with addiction Christmas time has the potential to be an absolute nightmare. Family get-togethers can seem incredibly daunting when you throw an addict into the mix, especially since parties are a natural trigger for destructive drinking behaviours.
If you are dreading this year’s family functions, take a deep breath, and read through our list of coping strategies for friends and families of addicts during the holidays. It won’t solve all your problems, but it may ease your anxieties.
Give yourself permission to feel
Having a loved one struggling with addiction is a minefield of emotions – guilt, anger, fear, shame, anxiety, you name it – and the best thing you can do for yourself is to acknowledge these feelings. Trying to stay strong or ignoring your emotions is not going to get you anywhere; especially if you are trying to protect your loved one by bottling everything up.
Talk to someone you trust
Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or relative can be a huge relief. Venting your emotions will make you calmer when faced with the fall-out of your loved one’s addiction and it will make you feel less alone. Having a person who simply listens to your side of the situation can be imperative to maintain your mental health.
Be open with your loved one
Having a conversation about how your loved one’s addiction is affecting you is incredibly hard. However, it can also be very powerful – even if it doesn’t impact your loved one’s behaviours immediately. If you simply tell your loved one that you would love to see them during the Christmas period but absolutely don’t want to deal with them in a situation where they might potentially be intoxicated, you have taken the first step to protecting yourself.
Make a Plan B (or C or D)
By now you probably know your loved one’s patterns of alcohol use quite well; and there is nothing wrong with using this to your advantage. Schedule a Christmas breakfast with them rather than a lunch if it means they won’t already be intoxicated or make plans to meet them for a Christmas walk away from any drinking opportunities. Remember, you are allowed to withdraw if your loved one’s behaviour causes you pain, you have no obligation to put up with this.
Set clear boundaries
This is especially important if you have children to protect from your loved one’s destructive drinking. Making sure your children don’t have a traumatic Christmas experience is much more important than sparing your loved one’s feelings. Yes, this is a rough call to make; but this is not the time to be vague about your needs and the needs of your children.
Do not drink with them
It may not change your loved one’s drinking behaviour, but it will take away the illusion of a shared, social drinking experience. Politely but firmly refusing to join your loved one when they start drinking can be a powerful way of making a stand, regardless of the immediate reaction.