The holiday season is especially difficult for those dealing with addiction in their lives. To choose to enter treatment yourself or to talk a loved one into rehab during the holiday season is always more of a dilemma than any other time of the year. The holiday season is full of family traditions and making new memories to have for future holidays. It’s a time to enjoy the company of family and friends accompanied by the spirit of giving again more than any other time of the year. Now consider the thought of not having a particular loved one there as they always have been for that special day or week. That person whether it’s you or any other loved one will be missed and things won’t be the same without them. Also, that person will be away from their family and friends won’t be able to enjoy those traditions and new memories being made for the future. Yes, being in rehab during the holiday season can be very difficult for everyone.
With addiction, almost everything to the addict’s environment can be a stimulator or trigger to drink alcohol or use drugs. Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years or Kwanzaa, it is a very emotional and stimulating time of year and most addicts don’t fare well during this time. It’s a time of “celebration” and a perfect excuse to forgive oneself or others for their “shortcomings”.
“Let’s just get through the holidays” is a common statement we often hear in the recovery field. There is no perfect time to get help. There will always be important reasons not to if you look for them. But when it’s needed it’s needed. Don’t let the holiday season be a reason to wait to help someone you love, including yourself.
Our busiest time (and usually overwhelming time) is right before or right after Christmas or New Years. Why? Because those who call for help before the holidays are usually remembering last year and how badly it went because of the addiction. Those who “wait until the holidays are over” are usually the ones who tell us their holidays were ruined by the addict or alcoholic and they shouldn’t have waited. Common stories we hear:
It’s human nature to want to be around our loved ones during the holidays and also human nature to forgive and hope for better beginnings because of that holiday spirit. Unfortunately addiction takes no days off, especially Christmastime and other festive family holidays. It is simply the worst time to apply that holiday spirit when dealing with an addict or alcoholic.
In my 18 years of sobriety and active service to recovery I have never encountered a treatment facility that didn’t handle the time of year correctly. It is already a tough enough time for those working inside the walls of drug and alcohol rehab keeping everyone focused on their daily tasks and counseling the clients through the tough times of being homesick and missing family. In addition to the already difficult chore of keeping sanity, most treatment facilities do a nice job of decorating and even buying gifts for their clients to make it through the days still on task. The bottom line for rehab staff is to rehabilitate their clients and give them clear vision to make better living decisions in the future. Those decisions start in rehab and the holiday season is actually a great test for those attending a program. What addicts need more than anything is to know that they can get through tough and challenging times and remain sober doing so. Keep in mind that the staff working in such a facility has their own families and they all understand what you or your loved one will go through while being away.
In my time of working in rehab, I always tried to keep my staff more aware of the time of year and the experiences they had as ex-addicts and how stimulating it was for all of us too. When it came to Christmas, the build up prior to the actual day was tough but when the actual day came and went, things went much easier. Before we knew it, it was all over and we could get back to the business at hand of recovery.
I as a survivor who lived through many years of addiction I know what it’s like to be in rehab during the holiday season. It was extremely difficult to think that my family was doing all of the usual holiday activities together, smiling and carrying on……without me. As an addict in recovery, all I could think of was myself. It wasn’t really my family I missed. Of course I felt guilty because I disappointed my family on such a spiritual time of year but my thoughts were more about me and what I was missing. And I guarantee that in the early stages of my recovery, if I weren’t in rehab I would have been on the streets putting myself in danger like I always did up to that point. As an interventionist I hear all of the excuses and pleads and promises of a nice holiday together if they can get one more chance. Don’t fall for it, even if it’s you talking to yourself. When it’s time, it’s time. Get help and get it now. Too many parents have had to bury their kids because they waited for that one special holiday with hopes that things will get better if given one more chance. Don’t wait for the holidays to be over to do the right thing. Addiction is fatal in many cases and waiting to get help simply does not make sense when one sees the big picture.
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