Woman sitting at dinner table holding a fork

During the holidays, families will often gather to celebrate. While most people look forward to having everyone together, addiction can change everything. For many families struggling with active addiction, the holidays can mean a time of anguish and pain. The thought of managing an addicted loved one while maintaining peace and unity can be overwhelming. While you may be trying to be supportive, you could actually be enabling them and making their substance abuse worse.

What is Enabling?

If you are enabling an addict, it means that you are preventing them from experiencing the full extent of the consequences of their addiction. Enablers often have good intentions and are trying to help their loved ones, but what they do not realize is that these good intentions may be making the substance abuse worse. Because the addict can continue to use or drink without real consequence, why would they ever stop?

How to Stop Enabling Over the Holidays

In many ways, the holidays are the season of enabling.

You think, “Maybe this year will be different. Maybe you can keep a better eye on him. If he’s in the house, you can look for his stash – and thwart any attempts to buy drugs. At least he won’t be around all of his using buddies if he’s home. If he comes home for Christmas, he won’t have to worry about work or school for a week or so – that’ll help. With him home, you can monitor his drinking and you can help him get back on track, right?”

Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking often leads to enabling. Instead, these tips on how to avoid enabling an addict over the holidays could help your loved one finally realize the cost of their addiction and help your whole family move forward.

Don’t Give them Money or Gifts

One of the best tips on how to stop enabling your grown child over the holidays is to not give them any gifts. Because exchanging gifts over the holidays is a part of the festivities, this practice may seem harsh, but you need to remember that ultimately what you are gifting them is drug money.

You may think that the Publix gift card will go toward food or that new necklace will go perfectly in her wardrobe, but if he or she is in active addiction, those things will likely be sold for money to buy drugs or alcohol. Instead, offer to pay for their outpatient or residential addiction treatment and pay the treatment center directly.

Say No & Set Boundaries

While setting boundaries with a loved one can be difficult, this is one of the best ways to stop enabling a drug addict over the holidays. Because addiction often includes secrecy and deception, your loved one is likely used to pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules. They may even know how to manipulate you.

If they continue to get away with this, they will never experience the negative consequences of their addiction. Instead, put your foot down. Set boundaries and follow through. When things stop going their way, they could open their eyes.

Don’t Wish it Away

Too many people continue to enable over the holidays and hope the problem will go away on its own. Because addiction is a disease, your loved one needs professional help to get better.

Instead of ignoring it, the holidays may be a good time to talk to your loved one about their addiction and voice your concerns. A drug or alcohol intervention with a professional may also be worth considering for the greatest chance of getting them into treatment.

Stop Covering it Up

Enabling over the holidays also includes hiding your loved one’s substance abuse from others. You may worry about your loved one’s image, but trying to hide their substance abuse is not in their best interest. Especially during the holidays when you may get together with extended family, it can be tempting to try to cover it up, but chances are other people have already noticed.

Addiction is a disease and your loved one needs addiction treatment. Treating it like a secret may only deter them from asking for help.

Remember You Cannot Control Them

Just because they may be in your home over the holidays, doesn’t mean their drug and alcohol use is within your control. If your family member is in active addiction, they will continue to use during the holiday season regardless of your presence.

What you are in control of, however, is how you handle it.

Just because it is the holiday season, doesn’t mean your loved one should get a pass for their substance abuse. There is no time like the present to take action. When you stop enabling over the holidays, you could be setting your family up for years of happier and healthier holidays ahead.

If your loved one needs help for an addiction, contact us today. At Vertava Health, we want to help.