“…God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” —1 John 5:11
Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of millions, religious or not. It marks a season filled with hope, joy, merriment and, most importantly, family. Sadly, Christmas is not always such a joyous occasion for those who know the struggle of addiction firsthand. Addiction is a disease of the mind and body that affects more than just the addict; it affects the whole family by poisoning relationships and others’ perceptions of the addict. Despite what you may hope and pray for, addiction is powerful enough to ruin what is (in)famously called the “perfect family Christmas.”
Addiction Makes You Think Badly of Your Struggling Loved One
Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also one of the most stressful. A lot of this contributes to the unattainable ideal of the perfect family Christmas. After all, when you aspire for the best, human tendency dictates that you also prepare for the worst.
In the case of spending Christmas with an addicted loved one, you may find yourself holding your addicted loved one to a much higher standard than you do for everyone else. You may have valid concerns that slowly warp into expectations and judgments based on ‘what if’s:
- What if (s)he shows up to the party intoxicated?
- What if (s)he makes a scene during dinner?
- What if (s)he get drunk/high while no one is watching?
- What if (s)he resells or pawns off the gifts we got?
- What if (s)he tries to steal things? Should we hide our valuables?
- What if (s)he doesn’t call or show up at all?
Addiction Makes You Care Too Much About What Other People Think
It’s easy to feel alone in situations surrounding addiction. As the concerned loved one of a struggling addict, you may feel like no one can truly understand your hardships. This feeling may lead you to dodge social get-togethers, decline invitations to holiday parties, or avoid other people in general. You may be sympathetic to your loved one’s struggles, but that you might be feeling a little embarrassed, too.
When addiction is at its worst, you and your family may feel as though your reputation and privacy are under attack by the gossip surrounding your addicted loved one. With so many conflicting feelings, it’s hard to enjoy the “perfect” family Christmas— especially when you feel like you’re under scrutiny from others who don’t fully understand your situation.
Addiction Makes Your Struggling Loved One Feel Unwelcome
Thoughts and feelings are always a little more transparent around Christmas than they are for the rest of the year. If you are feeling shame and embarrassment, chances are, your addicted loved one will sense this. As a result, (s)he probably won’t want to be a part of your “perfect family Christmas.” No one wants to feel like an embarrassment around the holidays. The resulting withdrawal from Christmas, of course, only leads to heartbreak, blame, and guilt on both sides. You’ll most likely be left feeling like you could have done more to help and your addicted loved one will feel alone.
Addiction Makes You Prepare for the Worst
One of the scariest things about addiction is that it can trigger unpredictable situations. For example, if your loved one was supposed to show up for Christmas with the family and didn’t, it leaves you
wondering what happened. That’s when the ‘what if’s start invading your thoughts again:
- What if (s)he decided not to come? Why? Is (s)he made at me?
- What if (s)he is stranded somewhere?
- What if (s)he went broke to feed the addiction?
- What if (s)he passed out? Or overdosed?
With no information to go on, you can only assume the worst. This kind of unease and worry shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s Christmas.
Make Christmas Merry for Everyone— Even Your Loved One in Recovery
Christmas is rarely ever perfect, but there are ways you can plan for a very merry one for your addicted loved one, your family, and yourself.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Make sure your loved one feels included in the festivities. Excluding your addicted loved one from being a part of your family Christmas is not only unadvised, but it’s also cruel.
Shunning someone for struggling with addiction will make that person feel more guilty, more ashamed and more isolated than they already do. It’s incredibly likely that your addicted loved one only wants to feel like a regular part of the family during Christmas. The kindest thing you can do is to give your loved one that opportunity. Remember, Christmas is not only a celebration of the sacrifices of Christ. It’s also a reminder to follow his example.
“And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.”
Manage your expectations. If your loved one isn’t able to meet them, it isn’t personal. Remember, addiction is not a character flaw; it’s a disease that takes hold of the brain, body, and spirit. Holding your addicted loved one to standards of behavior that (s)he might not be able to meet is unfair.
“You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways.”
Before you plan any festivities, be sure to set clear boundaries with your addicted loved one. Try not to show any slack just because it’s Christmas; make sure that both you and your addicted loved one accept the consequences of pushing the boundaries that you’ve set together. If you don’t, you’ll risk further enabling your loved one’s addictive behavior.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Addiction may affect the whole family, but it doesn’t harm anyone more than your loved one. One of the best things you can do for your addicted loved one this Christmas is to offer your support. By reaching out and attending support group meetings with your addicted loved one, you’ll meet and gather support from other families who understand what you and your family are experiencing. Together, you can heal; and what better time than Christmas?
Have a Merry, Almost-Perfect Family Christmas with Help from Road to Freedom
If you and your family are struggling with a loved one’s addiction this Christmas, you’re not alone. There is always hope for your loved one to recover, and at Road to Freedom, we turn that hope into a reality. For more information about our programs, services and faith-based methods of addiction treatment, please call us at (844)402-3605. All calls are confidential.
Have a happy, safe, and loving Christmas.