Addiction and the Holiday Season – 1

Along with Thanksgiving Day, the winter celebration (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.) and the New Year’s celebration are generally seen as times when families get together.  Usually, this is a good thing.  What happens, however, to a recovering addict who finds themselves surrounded by people they know they have hurt in the midst of their drug abuse?  Feelings of shame, guilt and grief can become very powerful.  In addition, drug abuse often begins because the user is dealing with mental or emotional pain from which they want to escape.  In simpler, terms, drug abuse is often an effort to escape the sufferings that are a part of daily life.  They drink to get away from the pain.

Family gatherings can bring this mental and emotional pain to the forefront.  The recovering addict may come to believe that his family and friends are being nice, but really resent having to spend time with a person who has caused them so much pain through their alcohol abuse or that they really don’t trust their recovery.  They’re just waiting for the recovering addict to go back to their old ways.

Another factor to consider is the simple reality that drinking addict beverages is a common part of the holiday season in most families.  A glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve, for example is almost a given in many families.  A glass of wine at dinner on Christmas is similarly common.  A glance through grocery store advertisements makes it very clear that these stores expect to sell a lot of alcohol during the holiday season.  What is the recovering addict to do when they find themselves in the midst of so much alcohol and surrounded by family friends who are all enjoying a drink of some kind?  Combined with the guilt, grief and sorrow that the individual is already coping with, it may become overwhelming.

Other factors can also lead the recovering addict to resume drinking.  Gathered with family and friends and witnessing the joy that they find in their children and grandchildren, may grieve the reality that they will likely never know those joys for themselves.  As the recovering addict reflects on past holiday seasons and remembering people who have since passed away may become overwhelmed by grief that these loved ones never had a chance to see them in their recovery.  They may even believe that these loved ones held them in contempt and dislike when they passed away.  Seeing no opportunity to apologize to these loved ones, the recovering addict is filled with guilt or even self-hatred.  They grieve over the harm they have caused and despair of redemption and forgiveness.

Here’s a website that can help family and friends support a recovering addict during the Holiday Season:  http://www.nj.gov/health/news/2017/approved/20171120a.shtml

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