Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Addiction And Thanksgiving.
Turkey, check. Brussel sprouts, check. Cranberries, check. Pumpkin pie, check. Family coming, um… check. Thanksgiving is almost upon us. As families across North America come together in celebration, not all will be rejoicing. For families with an addicted loved one, the holidays can be a difficult time.
One parent told me she wished Thanksgiving didn’t exist. Barbara – not her real name – said her daughter was using heroin and had left behind her two children (who Barbara was raising). None of them had seen each other in months. Barbara is unsure if her daughter even lives. Barbara states it’s hard to put on a smiley face when she feels so upset. She says when she’s not feeling guilty for feeling angry, she’s sad. Sad for her and sad for her daughter’s children, who she describes as victims of addiction.
Maybe you can relate. There is much ado, this time of year. Glitter and gold and roasting turkeys. Happy smiling families taking pleasure in the company of one another. And then there’s your family. The family with the addicted person. While other Moms and Dads are boasting about their child’s accomplishments, you remain silent. You might struggle to understand your addicted loved one. You may even wonder if you did something wrong. Was his/her addiction your fault? In trying to help, you can find yourself over compensating and managing your sick child’s illness, alone.
Addiction can be generational. Children grow up with an addicted parent/s and then marry someone struggling with addiction or become addicted themselves. For these unhealthy families, holidays are just another reason to overindulge and behave badly.
Some families will be experiencing their first Thanksgiving without their addicted loved one. 129 people are lost to this disease each day. That’s a lot of empty chairs. For them, the holidays will be something to be gotten through. A day of grief and remembering and if only.
There will be families whose loved ones are still active in their disease. Like Barbara, they will have no guarantee their addicted person will even show up. And if they do, what then? Will they be high? Will they be moody? Or depressed? Will things go missing around the house? Should they lock up their valuables? Hide their purse? And what should they say to the rest of their family? Just thinking about it is exhausting.
There will be many unanswered questions. Should you omit wine and spirits from your table? What if someone says the wrong thing? The last thing you want on Thanksgiving is another explosion or fight. You don’t want your extended family to know how bad things have gotten, but you’re not sure how to prevent it. You might even be preparing for the worst case scenario. The addicted person arrives at your door and then passes/nods out. Or even worse, they don’t arrive at all.
But all is not bleak.
Addiction is a very treatable illness. There will be many families with recovering persons celebrating at their table this year. They will have much to be grateful for. For recovery not only gives families their loved ones back, it brings hope and new life to all.
No matter what is happening in your life as the holidays draw close, give yourself permission to stop.
Stop beating yourself up.
In family meetings, you learn you didn’t cause the addiction. You can’t control their addiction and you can’t cure it.
So what can you do?
You can love your addicted family member with boundaries. Boundaries spell out what’s okay for you and what is not. Keep in mind it’s not an act of love to put up with abusive and disrespectful behavior – that’s an act of codependency. Taking good care of you will decrease the stressors of your loved one’s addiction.
The meaning of Thanksgiving is to give thanks. We gather to break bread and express our love for one another. And if we can’t do that, then at least we can maintain the peace. In addicted homes, our families are not perfect, but we’re grateful for them. Love what you have. There will always be room for improvement, but for this one day you can put down the sword. The sun will still rise tomorrow if you let go. The power of prayer goes a long way to soothe the frazzled soul.
Holiday celebrations can be a time to be gotten through. Or a time to be cherished. I’ve experienced both. All I know for sure is the more I work on me, the safer I am for everyone else to be around. Life’s lessons don’t always come wrapped in beautiful packages. Sometimes they come wrapped in everything we don’t want to be. Whatever your circumstances are this holiday season, one thing’s for sure. It’s you who chooses what you season your meal with. I know what works for me…
Pass the gratitude, please!
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.