While togetherness and celebrations are top of mind for most during the holiday season, heightened feelings of stress, anxiety or depression are often elevated for anyone with a substance use disorder. In turn, family members will also struggle with feelings of worry, fear and embarrassment as a result of their loved one’s behaviors.
Conversations with those closest to you about entering treatment during the holiday season are often met with resistance, and misconceptions about why this isn’t a good time. At Caron, we understand the apprehension around entering treatment during the holidays, and have successfully guided numerous individuals and families through this difficult decision.
“My family needs me here.”
Think about previous holidays or family gatherings – has your addiction added to, or taken from, the joy of the season? It might feel like your family needs you, but the reality is, do they really want you there if you are drunk or high? Your family does not want the little bits of you that are left after your drug or alcohol use. They need you to be healthy, happy and whole. They need you to be on a positive path of physical, mental and spiritual health.
It’s probably more accurate to say that you need your family during this time, but you can’t be fully present for them if the distraction of drugs or alcohol are in the mix. The best thing you can give yourself and your family at this time of year is the gift of recovery.
“I will miss out on our family’s traditions.”
Holidays are all about traditions and creating wonderful memories. Whether it’s opening presents, gathering for a meal, or simply spending quality time together, going through the motions of these activities will be difficult and, ultimately, lead to feelings of shame, sadness or embarrassment if you’re under the influence, which may serve as a trigger to use even more. Are these the kind of memories you want your family to look back on?
Your holiday traditions can be celebrated at any time of year, but the disease of addiction is unpredictable, so you can’t postpone getting well any longer. Think of the pride and relief your family members will have once they see how far you have come in recovery. That’s an occasion worth celebrating!
“Being in treatment is not where I want to be during the holiday season.”
How do you envision your holidays going if you do not seek help? Many times, expectations are much higher than the reality. Mistletoe, menorahs and holiday functions will be vastly overshadowed by arguments, shaming and isolation. Caron offers a safe place for you to gain strength in recovery. You’ll be immersed with others who are new to this way of celebrating, and you'll have the guidance and support to help you begin new traditions and celebrate the holidays in a healthy way.
“I will seek treatment AFTER the holidays; now is just not a good time.”
According to the CDC, over 72,000 people died in 2017 from a drug overdose. Additionally, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Office parties, family gatherings, and other holiday-related events will put you at risk; even just one last binge or blackout could be extremely detrimental to your health. By entering treatment, you'll gain the tools you'll need to navigate these occasions in a healthy, sober way.
“I would never put my loved one in treatment during the holidays!”
Ask yourself: How have previous holidays been? Do you recall worrying about if and when your loved one would arrive? Was he or she drunk or high? Did you have feelings of shame, anger or embarrassment about his or her behavior?
If the answer is yes to any of the above, going through this again, or possibly something worse, can really put a damper not only on your holiday season, but on those around you. While your loved one may initially feel resentful, their treatment experience will help them embark on a journey of gratitude and an ongoing healthy lifestyle in the hopes that future holiday gatherings will be peaceful and create lasting, meaningful memories.
“I will be worried about my loved one. I can monitor them while they’re home for the holidays, and they won’t use while family is around.”
Addiction does not limit where and when a person will use, let alone who they are around. Someone who wants to use can do so in plain sight, even if it’s when they are running a quick errand or using the restroom. Do you want to spend your holiday being on edge, feeling the need to watch your loved one’s every move? Or would you rather relax, with the peace of mind that your loved one is in a safe environment with a supportive clinical team?
“How will I explain my loved one’s absence to others?”
It is up to you how much you want to share regarding your loved one’s absence. Often, you will find others who have faced similar struggles and you may find empathy in sharing your experience. You may also keep it simple and say that your loved one is receiving medical care or taking time for themselves. The alternative is having to explain your loved one’s negative behaviors associated with their substance abuse.
“My child is home from college on winter break, so we'll have this time for him to receive treatment.”
Using a holiday break to enter treatment has many advantages; however, treatment is often just the beginning of the recovery journey. The first months, and even years, of sobriety requires continued and intensive work. Caron’s College Success Program will support your child’s new lifestyle, allowing them to have a successful college experience while still engaged in their recovery.