With Christmas approaching fast and the assumption that every man and his dog are going to get ‘merry’ aka hammered throughout, we need to have a think about people who have problems with alcohol and other drugs. Not only that, we need to think about the people who are living with their problems. Planning Christmas now will help you to gain a bit more control over what’s going to happen,
These times of celebration are so connected with alcohol intake or substance use in our society, that it’s not only a massive trigger time for people in recovery or those currently having problems with substances, but for their families and friends also. Can you stop them using or drinking? No. Can you say what you will and wont accept in a caring manner? Yes.
What might people with drug and alcohol problems be thinking?
(I’ll refer to drinking for the rest of the article but that’s just for ease! Include drugs in this too)
- Oh no I’ve got to spend time with Aunty Doris who will try and offer me whiskey and tell me to ‘treat myself’
- Everyone will be drinking (this might cause dread or excitement, depending on whether someone is in recovery or not)
- I’ve got to face my family and I know they are a trigger for me drinking. Can I make a plan to get out of there?
- Oh great, an excuse for free booze!
- How much drinking can I get away with this Christmas?
What might families be thinking?
- We’ve been invited round to my mums for tea but last time, my partner got wasted and started arguing with Aunty Doris
- What if they have a drink? They’ve only stopped for a few months and I don’t want things to go back to the way they were
- I hope they can manage to walk away if they feel like they need a drink
- I just know they’re going to drink too much and I feel worried and anxious
- I don’t want them drinking in the house
So, now what?
The best thing to do is have a conversation about what you will, and you won’t accept from your loved one’s drinking and what the consequences will be. Will this be a tough conversation to have? Yes. Will it cause conflict? Maybe, but you’re no doubt getting that anyway and this will be a baseline to what substance using behaviours you will accept, what you won’t and what the consequences may be.
What does a friend in recovery say?
I decided to ask a friend of mine about his thoughts on this as, although I have a great deal of experience in supporting families, he describes himself as an alcoholic and an addict for over 20 years and is now in recovery. He has more insight into what it’s like for a drinker or drug user at this time of year. This Christmas will be his second sober Christmas. Thomas says he hit his rock bottom (bear in mind that not everybody experiences this to change- see my previous blog on this here) but turned his life around and has set up his own hypnotherapy practice, specialising in addictions.
He suggests that to help a loved one who drinks or uses drugs over the Christmas period, we should:
- Avoid going to places where they previously or currently use drink/use drugs
- Encourage communication so that your loved one feels ok to say they are having a down day and that they don’t feel pushed to go and see Aunty Doris
- Let your loved one have a get out plan, so there is a person there they can say they need to leave to and that this can take place without questioning with that person leaving with your loved one.
- Be considerate of each other
- Don’t use or drink in front of them
- Plan in sober activities
- Get an understanding of problematic substance use or addiction- this helps so much as you loved one won’t see any value in talking to you if there is conflict or lack of understanding
- Don’t ignore each other hoping it will go away
- Set clear boundaries (I’ll post more on boundary setting next week)
I can help!
If you are living with a loved one’s drug or alcohol use, I can help you.
My service, The Vesta Approach, supports families affected by a loved one’s substance use. You can access confidential support from me wherever you are in the world. I will help you to get your loved one into treatment and lead a better life. I offer face to face sessions in the Manchester (UK) area. You can also get help via Skype and an online group therapeutic programme.
I share lots of great information and advice on my Facebook page.
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See you next week,