Holiday Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
The holidays are a happy time for most. But for those suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction this time can be challenging, stressful, and downright depressing. Thus it is important for loved ones to be aware of how the holidays affect those who suffer, but to enjoy the celebrations and family gatherings just the same.
Parties and gatherings can be a challenge for individuals in recovery. Alcohol seems to be everywhere in the eyes of an alcoholic, from television to the glass in the hand of those that don’t normally drink. Fond memories can overshadow the misery alcohol brought to their lives, and open the door to relapse.
It is also a time of year when distant friends and relatives are reunited. This can bring stress in several ways. An old drinking or drug using friend may call for a visit. Since the damage of alcoholism and addiction has a wide reach, someone who has been harmed in the past may show up at a gathering. Recovering individuals may find a reason to drink or use, and those not in recovery might go on a heavy binge.
Holiday festivities, movies, and music can conjure up memories of lost friends and better times for alcoholics and drug addicts. It is common for them to dwell on these memories rather than just move on, causing a feeling of “if only…” and a form of self-loathing. Using the tools of recovery when these feelings arise will often help.
Some degree of depression, from “the blahs” to major depression, is bound to set in for those who believe they are bad people due to the feeling of self-loathing. This is a common reason for relapse, increased alcohol or drug abuse, or for some folks in recovery to simply stay away from social situations.
Loved ones may become angry with alcoholics and drug addicts, join them in their misery, or even offer them a drink, drug, or tobacco to feel better. The healthy response is in fact to let them be and enjoy the festive holiday season. Loved ones have no control in dealing with the sufferer’s state of mind. It may not be easy, so attending a support group like Al-Anon can help.
There are many resources on the internet for dealing with alcoholism and drug addiction during the holidays. The excerpt below is from a discussion transcript posted on The Washington Post website. The full Q & A session contains a wide variety of good advice for those who suffer and their loved ones.
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Arlington, Va.: My dad is an alcoholic, sober for about about five years now. Prior to this, we had thought he was still on the wagon, but he was hiding alcohol all around the house in flavored water bottles. Both my brother (28) and I (26) live away from home, and during the holidays, when we get together, it's tough because we always wonder if he has fallen off the wagon again, and we snoop the house inconspicuously. Will there ever be a time when we trust him again? We feel guilty traipsing around the house. My mom is at home, and she wonders/snoops too. FWIW, he was sober from basically my birth until I was 14/15, and that's when he fell off the wagon unbeknownst to us until five years ago.
Dr. Harris Stratyner: Alcoholism is a disease. It's primary, progressive, chronic and, if untreated, fatal. It makes liars of those people who fall victim to the disease unless they actively work on staying sober -- treatment, 12-step programs, etc. Instead of going behind your dad's back, realize that relapse is often part of this disease and speak to your dad about your concerns.
-- Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2008/12/05/DI2008120502603.html --
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