Celebrating the Holidays in a Family of Addicts

A family of addicts celebrating the holidays together. There are fireworks in the background and people are cheering.
The holidays are a special time of year for families to come together and celebrate. But for families of people in recovery, the holidays can be a challenge. There’s often worry about how to handle things so that they don’t set off relapse triggers. 

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can be painful and frustrating. But it is important to remember that addiction does not define your loved one – they are still worthy of love and respect. The best way to celebrate the holidays is to come together as a family and support each other through this difficult time. 

This piece will help you gain a better understanding of addiction and offer some tips to you make the best out of the holidays!

Is Addiction a Family Disease?

It affects everyone whether you have a family member with an addiction or you’re from a family of addicts. Alcohol and drug addiction are often called “a family disease” because of their impact on all the people around the addicted person. 

Active addiction can impact you emotionally, financially, psychologically, and environmentally when it’s happening within your family. Family addiction support and counseling for families of drug addicts is available, though, and can help you as you explore these far-reaching effects on your life.

Understanding Addiction

When you come from a family of addicts, it’s easy to take their actions personally. You might feel like your family member or members don’t love you, or you could feel like no matter what you do, they’re unwilling to change.

The reality is that addiction is a chronic disease. It’s complex, and while it’s treatable, it isn’t easy to manage for many people. 

  • When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it affects the brain system involved in reward and motivation.
  • The body craves a substance, and there is a lack of concern over the consequences of that substance because of the compulsiveness of the brain.
  • People with the disease of addiction lack self-control, and they may dismiss how their behavior is causing problems and affecting the people around them, including their families.
  • People with addiction may experience cycles of relapse and remission, whether they return to use, according to the Mental Health Services Administration.
  • When a person uses an addictive substance, it creates a high that’s both physical and psychological.
  • The brain’s frontal lobes play a role in whether someone becomes addicted after trying an addictive substance or not. The frontal lobe is a part of our brain that lets us delay gratification or feelings of reward. When someone has an addiction, there is a malfunction in their frontal lobe, triggering immediate gratification.

Other areas may also play a role in someone’s addiction, and chemical imbalances and co-occurring mental disorders are often involved in a substance use disorder.

How Addiction Affects the Family

Addiction affects families in so many ways.

For young children, addiction can create trauma. 
  • Young children see their caretaker suffering from addiction, and they can, in turn, be more likely to develop a substance use disorder when they get older.
  • Children in homes with addiction are three times more likely to be neglected or abused.
  • Kids in addicted homes can experience learning and development delays and mental and emotional disorders.
  • Some children develop a sense of guilt or self-blame if they have a parent with a substance abuse issue. They might develop dysfunctional attachments when they’re older or experience persistent feelings that they aren’t good enough.
A teen in the family struggling with addiction can affect the entire family, leading to strained relationships, stealing, and parental grief.

Sometimes we’ll hear about roles in a family of addicts. Often, we see a pattern where every family member will develop their own way of handling the addiction in the family. 

Some families have members who take on multiple roles, while others have a person in each role. Some families might not have some of the roles, but none of them are considered healthy ways to deal with addiction in the family. These family roles include:

  • The addict: This is the person with the addiction disorder, and they are the family’s focal point. They are a source of conflict in the home, both directly and indirectly. Family dynamics center around this person, whether they realize it or not.
  • The caretaker: This family member will make excuses for the addicted person and the problems they cause. They’ll take on a lot of responsibilities in the household to try and keep the peace and make sure everyone’s happy. The caretaker will often enable the addict to keep the cycle going.
  • The hero: This person is similar to a caretaker but doesn’t enable the addicted person. They’ll try and do everything they can to make their family seem normal. They want to keep up appearances outside of the home, and they’re often perfectionists and very responsible. Sometimes they’re the family’s “golden child.”
  • The scapegoat: The problem child; this person may be defiant and have hostility towards other members of their family. They may try to take attention away from the addict and put it on themselves through harmful behaviors.
  • The mascot: In this role, a person will be a comedian and try to deal with stress and chaos through humor.
  • The lost child: As the quiet person in the family, the person filling this role will want to avoid any other conflict or challenges. They watch from the background.

Family of addicts

Tips to Make The Best of The Holidays

Plan Ahead

The key to success is planning ahead. If you know there will be triggers at the holiday gathering, plan for them. Have a game plan for what you will do if someone offers you a drink or a joint. It helps to have a friend or family member in recovery that you can rely on for support. 

Set Boundaries

It’s important to set boundaries with your addicted loved one. Let them know what is and is not acceptable behavior. If they cannot stick to the boundaries, then they need to sit out the holiday gathering. It’s okay to put your own well-being first. 

Focus on the Positive

The holidays are a time to focus on the positive things in life. Spend time with people who make you feel good and do things that make you happy. Don’t dwell on the negative and try to enjoy yourself as much as possible. 

Support for Families of Addiction

Regardless of your role, options can help you if you’re dealing with addiction. Family addiction support can help you to work through how you’ve been affected, and you can take care of your own mental and emotional needs. A family therapist will be trained to work with an entire family unit, but other options exist too. 

  • Individual counseling: A good starting point if you’re affected by someone else’s addiction is individual therapy. You can go to therapy alone, even if no one in the family is willing to. You can learn more about your goals and what’s stopping you from achieving them and identify the roles you took on as a means of coping with addiction. You can start to learn healthier coping strategies in individual therapy. You might also work on your own behavioral health conditions with individual counseling services.
  • Counseling for families of drug addicts: Family therapy or family counseling is a good choice if multiple people within the family recognize a problem and want to get help for it. When you participate in counseling for families of drug addicts, you can begin to explore family dynamics in a supportive and safe environment. Your family can start to heal, regardless of whether or not the addict participates. Many addiction treatment programs will include the entire family in the recovery process. A family therapy program can help the treatment process for the person working on recovery and improve the quality of life for everyone in the family.
  • Al-Anon family groups: These groups are an alternative to a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous, designed for the families and loved ones of addicts. You can learn how to become happy and content independent of your loved one, regardless of whether they get treatment for their addiction. You can learn how to free yourself from the control the addicted family member has over you and feel a sense of joy even when there’s chaos.

Addiction Treatment in Orange County, CA

The best course of action when you have an addicted person in your family is to try and help them get professional treatment. Contact the caring team at Opus Health by calling 855-953-1345 if you’d like to learn more about addiction treatment options available in Orange County, CA. We can help you find solutions that will suit your family’s needs. 

The holidays can be a difficult time for families struggling with addiction. However, by taking some time to prepare and focus on what you can control, you can make it through this holiday season with your sobriety intact. Remember to practice self-care and reach out to us for support if needed. Happy holidays from Opus Health

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