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The Suffering Addict in The Holiday Season – What The Family Can Do

For the families of those suffering from active addiction, the holiday season can be a very difficult time. The only person it can be more difficult for is the person actually suffering from addiction. The holiday season for most families is a joyous time. For those families with a loved one in active addiction this is too often not the case. They should be enjoying time with family and friends and, instead, they are worried sick about their son, daughter, or spouse. Many are in fear that their loved one may die given all of the extra temptation at this time of year, i.e., holiday parties, etc.

Families in these situations are often very conflicted. They feel an onus on themselves to spend time with each other, be festive, appreciative for their blessings, but on the other hand, they have a loved one who is suffering and they don’t know what to do.

Should they focus on the family and friends that are available and deserving of time well spent with each other or do they focus on their suffering loved one who may not want any contact at all?

This is not an easy question to answer. There are many factors involved. If the suffering addict is available and wants to attend the family gatherings, they may very well ruin the time for everyone. If the family shuns them, they may be more apt to consume more substances and carry out in even more abhorrent ways endangering themselves and others.

We know that enabling the suffering addict makes things worse. Trying to coddle them during this time of year to get them to attend family events may further endanger them and others. If the loved one wants nothing to do with the family events or have any communication whatsoever with the family, it may be better to leave it at that and simply pray for them. However, it never hurts to offer to get them help. They may so no or even refuse to hear it but at least the attempt has been made.

The best thing that can happen at this time of year is that the suffering loved one agrees to get help and enters treatment before or during the holiday season. This can not only be a great gift for themselves but for everyone else. The family can take some semblance of comfort knowing their loved one is in a safe place, getting the help they need, thereby allowing the family to at least somewhat enjoy the holiday season.

How should the family go about trying to get their suffering loved one into treatment, ideally before the holiday season but worst case during? We recommend the family approach them with love yet firmness. Getting assistance and/or advice from addiction professionals is also highly recommended. Again, enabling the person will only make it worse. Tell them you love them, are willing to support them, but only if they get help now. If they agree, you will do all you can to help them through their recovery process and be there for them. If they do not agree, as difficult as it may be, tell them that you love them but there is nothing more you can or are willing to do for them.

Some may find this approach harsh. That is too much “tough love”. Love is never tough. Love is about doing what is best for those you love. In the case of addiction, a disease that feeds on enabling and manipulation, your loved one has a deadly disease and it is literally a matter of life or death. Though there are no guarantees that any approach will work, we recommend you take the approach that has the best chance of working. And we have described that approach above.

If you are successful in getting your loved one into treatment prior to the holiday season, it retrospect it may be the best holiday season you have ever had. If you are unsuccessful, you will know in your heart you at least gave it your best effort. And that is all the family can do.

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