Having a loved one in recovery is such a blessing but navigating the holiday season and integrating your now sober loved one back into family gatherings can be daunting to think about.
This will be the first time in two years my son is spending the holidays with the family. He is currently doing well and is sober. We have had many Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations with him being high or simply not showing up at all.
My family members are all aware of his addiction struggles. In hindsight, I don’t know if that was a good or bad decision telling them about his drug use. I know it is difficult for me to not keep an eye on him when he is at my house and it can at times make things tense. Do I ask the female family members to lock their purses in their car, just in case he gets the urge to take some cash? He is starting a new job so he should not have to take money from others anymore. But if something happened and money went missing, how would I handle that. Based on past situations just like this, I can already picture in my mind what will happen: I will overreact and start yelling at him and he will come up with a good story to make me feel guilty for even asking if he took it. Then the evening will have been ruined.
Will my family be watching him to see if he has any off behavior? I can imagine how hard it is for the addict to feel like he is the black sheep of the family and thinks that everything he says and does is being judged. I was at a Families Against Narcotics forum a few weeks ago and it was suggested that we ask our addicted loved ones how they are feeling about the upcoming holidays and what the feel is the best way to deal with the family celebrations. A few of the people in recovery admitted that the holidays are very hard for them. For some, it makes them feel bad because of all of the missed holidays or ones where they embarrassed their parents by making scenes or passing out after dinner or sometimes even during dinner!
All of this pressure on both sides can easily lead to a relapse for some who are new to their recovery journey or even for people who have been in recovery for years. One person said after a few years of trying to be okay and act the way he felt was expected at these functions, he finally had to tell his parents he was not going to participate anymore. It was a difficult decision but one he felt was necessary to keep sober.
I think we as supportive family members need to really listen to what our loved ones are telling us and not make them feel bad if they decide not to show up for Christmas dinner or whatever your celebration may be. Some even said they needed to step out and attend a meeting. If that is what needs to be done to keep them feeling strong then that is what they should do. The important thing to remember is, their sobriety is the most important thing. Without that, the family is destroyed once again and celebrating anything when your loved one is in active addiction is very hard.
One of the most important things to be thankful for any holiday season is the gift of sobriety in our loved ones. Nothing else compares to the happiness and relief it brings to all parties involved.
Wishing you a peaceful and happy holiday season.
Karen Damian has a son in recovery and feels that it is a privilege to share the ups and downs of addiction with other parents.