Dealing with an Addicted Loved One Over the Holidays


The holiday season can be stressful in and of itself. Presents to purchase, wrap, and ship off (after waiting for hours in the unmoving lines at the local post office). Dinner parties to organize, cook for, and clean up after (after mediating booze-fueled arguments between politically opinionated family members). Add an active addiction to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for an emotionally overwhelming couple of months. Addiction is a powerful and devastating disease – one that deeply affects all members of the family. Because active addiction will render the addict powerless, it will be up to his or her immediate family to set a plan of recovery in motion. Because the holiday season revolves around family, it is especially important to seek support during this time of year. There are several steps you can take to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible. And remember – there is no better time to seek professional treatment than around the holidays. The best gift you can give your addicted love one is support and encouragement along his or her journey of recovery.

Taking Care of Yourself First

First of all, you must do everything you possibly can to make sure your own emotional, mental, and physical needs are being met. One cannot pour from an empty cup, so to speak. If you are an emotional wreck yourself, it will prove exceedingly difficult to offer stable and constructive support. Get in touch with a therapist who specializes in family and addiction. Not only will regular therapeutic sessions help to keep you grounded and serene (discussing private matters with an unbiased and compassionate therapist can do wonders), but an addiction specialist will be able to offer you additional, advantageous advice. While one-on-one therapy can be exceedingly beneficial, so can family therapy – after all, addiction reeks havoc on every member of the household, and parents, siblings, and spouses often absorb many of the emotional and psychological consequences. Normal family functioning is thrown off completely, and standard holiday traditions are often interrupted or altogether forgotten. It can be difficult for family members to openly discuss the way that these disturbances make them feel; however, open and honest discussion is absolutely vital to eventual healing.

There are also many support groups designed to help the friends and family members of active addicts and alcoholics. Programs such as Al-Anon and Alateen were developed to help the family members and friends of addicts and alcoholics connect and offer one another support and encouragement. By attending a local Al-Anon meeting and listening to the experience of others, feelings of isolation and hopelessness can subside. To find a meeting, simply search ‘Local Al-Anon Meetings’ using your web browser, or call your regional AA Intergroup.

Setting and Maintaining Boundaries

While it may feel as if your holiday season is doomed to remain in shambles, there are some steps you can take to ensure family traditions remain somewhat intact. Although addiction-related obligations (such as appointments and meetings) can put a strain on free time, do what you can to organize at least a couple of family meals every week. Spending time with the family, no matter how brief, will help to reinforce the work being done in family therapy (with a focus on healthy and open communication). Do your best to go about business as usual. Plan a night to decorate the tree as a family, or to make Nana’s Famous Matzo Ball Soup. Whatever your holiday-time tradition may be, keep it alive. However, it is important that you also remember to manage your personal expectations, as well as the expectations of your other family members. Pretending like everything is normal and ignoring any issues that may arise could work against healthy communication. Remember that although this holiday season may be a bit tougher than normal, things will eventually normalize. In the meantime, be sure to practice self-care, engage in sincere and straightforward communication, and set and maintain healthy boundaries surrounding family time and holiday traditions.

Recovery is possible, and there is no better time to seek professional help than around the holidays. We at Next Chapter provide a highly inclusive family program for the immediate family members of our patients. To learn more about our comprehensive program of recovery, please give us a call at 561-563-8407.