Living With Addiction in the Family at Christmas: Our Advice

Living With Addiction in the Family at Christmas: Our Advice

Coping with a loved one’s active addiction is often a challenging period for the entire family.

This situation not only impacts the individual struggling with addiction but also places a significant emotional and sometimes physical strain on family members.

These feelings can feel even more intense during times when families are supposed to come together, such as during the Christmas period.


Understanding Christmas and Addiction

As families gather to celebrate Christmas, it’s essential to approach the topic of alcohol or drug addiction with empathy and awareness.

Often misunderstood as a lapse in willpower, mental health, or a moral failing, addiction is recognised as a complex brain disorder, deeply influenced by various factors, which can include genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

This holiday season, it’s important for many families to remember that those struggling with active addiction are not just living with a personal challenge but are often fighting a hard battle against a very complex condition. By acknowledging this complexity, families can create a more supportive and understanding environment. This shift in perspective is so important, not just in offering comfort, but also in providing a foundation for effective support and recovery.

Recognising the true nature of their struggle can be the first step in offering the genuine support and empathy they need during this festive time of year, which can be extremely challenging for everyone involved.


Our Advice to Loved Ones During the Christmas Period

Below, find specialised advice for families seeking guidance on dealing with addiction during the Christmas season.

Communication is Key

During the Christmas season, maintaining open and honest communication becomes even more important. The holiday atmosphere can heighten emotions, making it important to discuss the unique challenges and feelings that arise from addiction in a family setting.

See below for ways to encourage open and honest conversations in a non-confrontational manner.

  • Set aside time for family discussions, ensuring everyone has a chance to express their feelings and concerns in a safe environment.
  • Encourage family members to express their feelings using “I” statements to avoid placing blame.
  • Make sure to listen actively and empathetically, and remember to validate each other’s feelings.
  • Address and discuss any adjustments needed to support the family member dealing with addiction dependence.

Setting Boundaries

Christmas often requires reevaluating and reinforcing healthy boundaries, to ensure they are appropriate and effective. For example, make an active effort to communicate any changes in holiday plans or traditions that are necessary to support a healthy environment.

One significant aspect is the numerous events and gatherings, often accompanied by the presence of alcohol or other substances. Have a plan in place for how to navigate these situations. This could involve setting boundaries, such as avoiding certain events where people are openly drinking or having a supportive family member present who understands the situation and can offer immediate support.

Seeking Professional Help

Christmas and addiction can be a tough mix, because the holiday season often makes it harder for people dealing with addiction to stay on track with their recovery. So, if you have a stronger sense that your loved one is struggling more than usual, encourage them to seek professional support. For example, suggest seeking therapy or guidance from local support groups to help your addicted loved one cope with the added stress of the season.

It might also be worth considering family counselling to navigate the unique challenges that the holidays bring.

Handling Christmas Triggers

Christmas can often be a source of stress, social pressure, and exposure to substances that could be difficult for your loved one. It’s helpful to discuss these potential triggers openly as a family, offering a safe space for your loved one to express their concerns and needs.

Ensuring that there is a safe and quiet space available for your loved one during gatherings can make a world of difference. The intensity of holiday celebrations can be overwhelming, and having an area where the person can retreat and collect themselves can be immensely helpful. This space should be a calming, substance-free environment where they can take a moment away from potential triggers and stressors.

As mentioned earlier, the key is often open communication, empathy, and a deep understanding of your loved one’s journey. The holiday season can be a testing time, but with thoughtful planning and a compassionate approach, it can also be a period of meaningful connection and support for your family.

Self-Care Over Christmas

Although Christmas can be a triggering time for your loved one, it’s also important to take care of yourself, too. Make prioritising your own mental health during this time a non-negotiable.

One effective strategy is to balance the responsibilities. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the tasks that come with the season, from decorating to planning family gatherings. Sharing these tasks with a family member not only lightens the load but also promotes a sense of community and teamwork, helping to avoid burnout.

In addition to sharing responsibilities, it’s important to carve out time for relaxation. So, prioritise activities that bring you peace and joy.

This could mean setting aside time for a quiet evening with a book, watching your favourite Christmas movie, or simply taking a peaceful walk. These moments of calm amidst the festive chaos can recharge your batteries and improve your overall festive experience.

Creating New Christmas Traditions

Coming up with new traditions is a great idea for those striving to support a sober and healthy environment. For example, consider organising a family game night, where everyone can engage in friendly competition and laughter through alcohol-free activities, or hosting a Christmas movie marathon featuring everyone’s favourite holiday films.

Avoiding Blame and Guilt

It’s common for feelings of guilt and blame to surface over Christmas. To navigate these difficult emotions effectively, try shifting the focus towards positivity.

This involves emphasising the positive aspects of the season, appreciating the progress that has been made so far, and consciously avoiding dwelling on past issues, even if it feels hard to do. By adopting this approach, the holiday experience can be transformed and help with avoiding any potential pressure cooker moment scenarios.

Preparing for the Unexpected

It’s important to understand that this period, whilst festive, can also bring with it a certain level of unpredictability.

This unpredictability can manifest in various forms, ranging from sudden changes in plans to unforeseen events that could have potentially damaging consequences. To effectively navigate through these uncertainties, it’s worthwhile having a well-thought-out plan B in place.

Having a plan B involves being prepared for potential setbacks or unpredictable behaviour. This means anticipating possible scenarios that might not go as originally planned and devising strategies to handle them effectively.

It’s about creating a support system or a backup plan that can be quickly put into action if things start to veer off course. This preparation is not about expecting the worst but about being ready to adapt and respond in a way that supports recovery and maintains a positive atmosphere.


Find Support at Cassiobury Court Today

We hope you’ve found our advice on navigating the Christmas period useful. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey, and there are resources and support systems available to help you and your loved one through this time if they haven’t yet been able to achieve recovery.

Call us today on 0800 001 4070 for more information on how we can help you or a loved one in active addiction.