Wow, it’s that time of year again. The holidays are upon us. Forgiveness and hope are everywhere and … for a good reason. Now is a good time to reconnect with your loved ones struggling with addiction. Here are some great tips on how to work through that process. And it is … a process. But there’s so much richness to be had through it all if you’re willing to put in a little intentional effort.
To be honest, I’m really surprised I’m even co-writing this article on connecting with addicts because just last year I was on the opposite side of the fence. I was the addict. I was the one hiding a flask of 100-proof in my coat, suitcase or luggage. I couldn’t go for more than a few hours without it. I’m amazed at how much change one year can bring. I also want to especially thank our member Teresa Greenhill for inspiring and writing this article with me.
It can be difficult to have a relationship with anyone who has an addiction, in particular, if it’s a family member or someone close to you. Those close to us have a lot to do with how we are shaped as we live our daily lives. We are, after all, a product of our environment. Adding an addiction into the mix may, unfortunately, cause a lot of damage along the way. It’s far too easy to get roped into part of that addiction process. Often it starts with something as seemingly innocent as a prescription painkiller, maybe after a car accident or surgery. The beginning of “the end”. Years seem to flash by. There are ups and downs. Sometimes we cut ties with our loved ones because it’s the best decision we can make at that time. Don’t blame yourself or your loved one, blame the situation. That’s just life.
1. Get ready: remove any triggers.
If you’ve inviting a loved one with addiction into your home these holidays, you need to be ready for them in advance. There are a lot of types of addictions. Some may be too common to things you already have in your home. Identify what these may be for your loved one that might be visiting you and either dispose of them or hide them before their visit. Prescription drugs are expected to have a 100% increase in abuse among the elderly in the United States by the year 2020 (1). We don’t know about you, but that astounds us and terrifies us. Do you have prescriptions in your medicine cabinet in your bathroom? How about hard alcohol in an unlocked cabinet somewhere? A badly timed trigger could really damage what could be a productive holiday event for your addicted loved one. Make sure they are out of sight and out of mind for their visit.
2. Forgive, forget if you can, and move forward.
When we decide to reconnect with a loved one, during the holidays or any other time, we have to work through a lot of issues. There may have been hurt feelings, bad decisions and horrible things said in the past. Seeing them again and deciding to reestablish a relationship with them will likely stir up a lot of old emotions and memories. It may be tough for you to work through those issues and feelings.
But remember, they are working hard to accept what they’ve done to you and/or others over the years. I know it all too well. I’ve beaten myself up for things I’ve done to loved ones that I was going to visit this year. I was battered and bruised inside before I even rang the doorbell. Be considerate of this, and approach them with compassion in your heart.
3. Be patient.
Understand that during the early stages of addiction recovery, their reactions to things will often be very similar to how they were while in the middle of their addiction. Don’t let it put you off. It may be more difficult at first to be there for them and with them, but hang in there. As the addiction recovery continues, they will mellow out more and become the person you used to know and love. They’re in there, and it will just take some time to get through it all.
4. Set some goals.
Make small goals to achieve in shorter periods of time, to help you feel more accomplished sooner. They can be together or by yourself. Start small. Here are some simple examples:
- Send a text
- Send a Facebook message
- Call them and catch up
- Call again and ask them to coffee and/or lunch
- Invite them to a public event/place- An art festival or a city park is a great setting to spend time together.
- Invite them to your home for a holiday event- This is the big one!
5. Don’t be too proud to get help.
We’re all human and beautifully flawed in our own ways. Sometimes we just need someone with the right experience to help. The good news is that addiction can be successfully treated (2). It doesn’t matter how long the addiction has lasted, there is always hope for recovery (3).
If you feel you’re aren’t making any progress, have a professional help you rebuild the relationship. They’ll be able to guide you through the process and help you both understand what is happening. Believe it or not, you may find out that you were part of the problem as an enabler or have co-dependency issues yourself. Remember… beautifully flawed doesn’t mean you can’t reach out for help.
If you were anything like me you probably did want help, but either couldn’t afford a psychiatrist or didn’t even want to go the therapist/12 step route. Good news, there are other options. Consider using a tool like our 30 Days of Recovery Challenge. It will help those with addictions (and those close to ones with addictions) head down the road of recovery. It keeps you focused with an easy 5 to 10-minute daily session geared toward keeping you sober, mentally sound and psychologically able to recover from your addictions or those of someone close to you. You'll reserve your spot in our group launch of this exciting challenge by signing up now. There's limited availability.
Use the spirit of the holiday season to your advantage. Let it help guide you through the forgiving process. Deciding to reconnect with your loved one after an addiction has interfered is a big step. However, it can be a positive one for the both of you if you give it some effort. Let it be a healing experience for them and yourself, as you work your way through all of the experiences you once had together. Soon, you’ll be spending more holidays together and building new memories and traditions. That is the happy ending your journey’s story deserves. It can be done. One step a time.
Happy holidays from all of us at Intention Inspired. Enjoy the journey.
Inspired by and written with Teresa Greenhill from our lovely Intention Inspired Community