Having a loved one in recovery is such a blessing! But navigating the holiday season and integrating your newly 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’ve had many Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations at which he was high or simply didn’t show up at all. My family members are all aware of his addiction struggles. In hindsight, I don’t know if telling them about his drug use was a good or bad decision.
It is difficult for me to not keep an eye on him when he is at my house, which can 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 like this, I can already picture in my mind what will happen: I will overreact and start yelling at him. 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. He may think that everything he says and does is being judged.
Suggestions from Families Against Narcotics about holiday gatherings.
I was at a Families Against Narcotics forum a few weeks ago. They suggested that we ask our addicted loved ones how they are feeling about the upcoming holidays. We can ask what they 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. Some feel bad remembering all of the missed holidays, ones where they embarrassed their parents by making scenes, or ones where they passed out after dinner. 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. It can even happen to people who have been in recovery for years. One person said that 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.
Make it okay for your family member in recovery to bow out.
I think we, as supportive family members, need to really listen to what our loved ones are telling us. We shouldn’t 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. It’s vital to remember that their sobriety is the most important thing. Without that, the family could be destroyed once again. 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.