We all know the Christmas classic, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” – where Clark Griswold wants to have the perfect family Christmas. Clark goes to great lengths to make sure everything is just right – from the tree and the house, to the turkey, the blessings, and all the decorations. However, it seems the more perfect Clark tries to be, the more dysfunctional his family and situation becomes. “Christmas Vacation” is one of my family’s favorite holiday movies. Every year around this time, we laugh at everything from Aunt Bethany saying the Pledge of Allegiance instead of a blessing, to the quirky neighbor’s outfits, and even cousin Eddie emptying the trailer’s septic tank in his bathrobe. Even if it’s a stretch, there’s something that almost every family can relate to in the Griswold’s family Christmas. But for families dealing with drug or alcohol addiction, the holiday season has much bigger problems than a burnt turkey or a squirrel in the Christmas tree. The issues and dynamics that unfold are raw, and they’re real. If you’ve ever seen “Christmas Vacation,” you know how hard Clark tries to bury the issues and move on, and create the perfect day – much like many of us do this time of year. But when the issues involve trauma, drugs and alcohol addiction, those efforts are dangerous.
Drug and alcohol addiction don’’t take a Christmas vacation.
“It just wouldn’t be Christmas without our son here.” “We’ll get through the holidays first, she’ll be ok until then.” “He can’t miss the company party, everyone will know there’s something wrong.” “Let’s just keep her home and keep a close eye on her until after New Year’s.” This time of year, we hear and make all sorts of excuses to avoid sending a loved one to treatment during the holidays. But getting help for your loved one isn’t about pretending that everything is fine, just to get through a certain season.
It is neither inappropriate nor too disruptive to send a loved one to treatment during the holiday season.
For many reasons, the holidays are often the best time of year for individuals to get into treatment, and for entire families to recover from addiction. In fact, here are our top four examples why inpatient addiction treatment at the holidays work. The truth is, families living in the midst of active addiction, will not experience a joyous and happy holiday season. Their priorities will not be finding and decorating the perfect tree, nor creating the best light show in the neighborhood – but rather, navigating the eye of the storm; living with stress, fear, and shame; experiencing true, daily dysfunction.
‘Tis the season for denial.
When ‘tis the season for denial – families will go to any length to protect their loved one, avoid getting them much needed help, and resorting to enabling behaviors to keep everyone sick. One of the biggest forms of denial comes when the loved ones of an individual struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol refuse to admit that alcohol or drug use is destroying the life of their family member and everyone else around them. If a loved one is struggling with addiction this holiday season, here are some things to keep in mind.
- Addiction doesn’t take a day off – including Christmas. Your loved one has likely made many promises to get sober, stay sober, or at least show up sober to events. But addiction doesn’t take a day off. Even if, by some chance, your loved one is able to make it to Christmas dinner without any drugs or alcohol in his or her system, it doesn’t mean they’re better. Your loved one has an illness that won’t miraculously get better for your holiday gathering. He or she needs help. Now. Waiting any longer – whether it be a week, a day, or even just a few hours – is dangerous.
- If your loved one is using, he isn’t really “there.” Addiction can often be intensified during the holiday season; this time of year has the potential to intensify the consequences of actions. Stress of the season, dreary weather and shorter hours of daylight, and family gatherings can push an individual into a dangerous realm of addiction to alcohol and drugs. If your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, chances are, he or she will not give up using just because it is a holiday. He or she will likely miss the celebration due to being intoxicated or high – or, even if he or she is physically present, there is a good chance your loved one will be intoxicated, high, or on edge thinking about how and when to get drunk or high.
- Recovery can be a part of your family celebration tradition. Addiction is a family disease, but if your loved one achieves recovery during the holiday season, there’s a lot to be joyous about. This holiday season, if your loved one takes a great stride to reclaim his or her own life through recovery, they’ll be alleviating the pain and suffering of addiction from themselves, as well as your entire family — now and for future holidays.
In “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Clark Griswold tries to create a perfect family holiday by burying anger, animosity, and dysfunction – and it simply does not work. Trying to cover up the issues that have arisen within a home dealing addiction to give the illusion of joy and happiness is dangerous. This holiday season is the time to stop the denial and take the steps to get you and your family healthy.