Addiction And The Holiday Season: Christmas & New Year’s

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Addiction and the Holiday Season

It’s not your imagination, things really do get worse for addicts and their families during the holiday season. This is because addiction is a living, breathing system that not only embeds itself into the life of the addict, but into the lives of everyone around them.

Why Does Addiction Get Worse During the Holidays?

The holidays are a time when everyone experiences more stress, more rush, concerns about money, and a rise in anxiety. Everything moves quickly during the holidays, including change, and change is what addicts and codependent families fear the most.

Why Do Addicts Fear the Holidays?

An addict is constantly stressed about their own addiction, and maintaining the addiction feels like a full-time job for both the addict and those enabling the him/her. Just as a workaholic may fear that the holidays are just added commitments (that they don’t need or want) on top of their busy schedule, so an addict sees holiday obligations as a threat. That thread is to their busy schedule of managing their addiction. Managing that addiction can include anything from nursing hangovers or staving off dope-sickness to having easy access to drugs and alcohol.  

Why Do Family Arguments Get Worse During the Holidays?

The holidays are simply an emotional time of the year when everything gets busier and people pay more attention to their past, present, and future. In fact, Charles Dickens displayed great understanding of the human psyche when he created 3 ghosts to represent the past, present and future of people’s lives in his epic Christmas tale.

In Dickens’ tale, all the struggles of the main characters are set against Christmas, and the holiday acts as an agent of change in the lives of those characters. A great metaphor, the story shows how Christmas time causes us to evaluate our lives and what we have done and accomplished in the past year.

For those who are not happy with what they see, Christmas is an ugly reminder of their own shortcomings and failures. Things can get even uglier when someone who is not happy with their current situation gets in a room with family and friends who are successful and positive about their situation.

Many family arguments are solely due to the perceived inequality or imbalance of good fortune on one family member over another. Add in a family member is obnoxious and loud about his or her own success, and you create an even more volatile environment that is ripe for an argument.

How Can Interventionists Help During the Holidays?

Family Interventionists simply intervene in complex problems involving family systems. While many of the families we intervene with have problems that do include drugs and alcohol (at some level), our aim is resolving the network of problems and restoring a healthy and balanced family system.

No matter what the problems are that your family is dealing with, an interventionist can help you to sort through them in a healthy way, before any of the worst-case scenarios can happen:

  • Communications break down to the point where physical altercations or fights are breaking out.

  • The situation gets worse and a rift severs communications between family members that need to repair their relationship.

  • Addiction issues worsen or pass a deadly point of no return.
The most Important Thing to Remember is:
Don’t Wait Until After The Holidays to Ask for Help

Our Interventionists are on standby, and ready to answer your call during the holidays. Critical family problems, especially those involving drugs and alcohol, can evolve quickly. Don’t ever wait to get help because you “don’t want to be a bother during the holidays.” We are here to help your family at the most critical of times.

Holiday Horror Stories: Family Addiction Problems During Christmas and New Year’s

The following are examples of familial problems that occur during the holidays. They are fictitious and are only used for example and educational purposes. They also can offer great insight into how to we can approach our own issues this holiday season (it’s always easier to assess and diagnose someone else’s problems than it is to find a solution to your own).

The Mother That Tries to Buy a Perfect Family on Christmas – Mother #1

This is a story that so many people can relate with, because it happens so often. One of the most common ways that human beings try to make up for their own mistakes and shortcomings is with gifts. You hear stories about absentee fathers and mothers that spoil their children with gifts to make up for the fact that they are always working and never around, but this is just the most blatant situational example.

In complex family systems, gifts can be used as weapons, as leverage, as blackmail, or even used to assert one’s dominance over another.

Christmas is centered around gift-giving – a very noble deed that has the ability to bring cheer. However, in some situations the act can cause more migraines than merriment. That is the case with Mother #1, who – in the midst of a family financial crisis, and several members accused of stealing money for drugs – has decided that buying everyone very expensive Christmas gifts on a credit card will make her into the hero and will save her family – at least for Christmas.

“It’s the Thought That Counts” Should be Thoughtfully Considered

Mother #1’s intent was rooted in good, and she truly believes that creating a fantasy family Christmas is worth the financial pain that will be felt later. The rest of the family, however, has now encountered an added stressor to the holidays.

The scene is painful as the family goes around in circles opening expensive gifts that each recipient knows that mom can’t afford. Worse, some family members feel that the gifts are a shot at them and their inability to provide such gifts. Emotions build as the gift-giving circle continues, and dissent is building as the family opens another bottle of wine to try and “deal” with the situation before it “gets bad.”

My Family Christmas Party Just Turned into a Family Argument

Unfortunately, the situation is already bad; and with no voice of reason or objective 3rd party to guide the situation, someone is about to say the wrong thing to mom and the situation will explode. Eventually, the family will lay all their cards on the table and fight and argue about everything they have kept inside for the last few years.

What just happened? Well, the family just attempted an intervention. A poorly executed intervention, with no planning or structure or hope of success, but an intervention nonetheless.

When Your Christmas Get-Together Becomes an Intervention

At Family First Intervention, we feel it is important for everyone to understand that an intervention is going to happen sooner or later, whether you want it to or not, and whether you are ready for it or not. Interventions come in many forms – sometimes winding up in the ICU after nearly dying from an overdose is your intervention. Getting arrested and embarrassed in front of family and friends might also be your intervention.

Planned Interventions Versus Unplanned Interventions

There are planned interventions and then there are un-planned interventions. Planned interventions are tricky, and run the risk of being highly unsuccessful – if not done correctly. In the story above, the family quickly tried to intervene with Mother #1 with an unplanned intervention, unprepared. There is little chance – especially with the powder keg of gifts and unresolved issues this fictitious family is sitting on.

The holidays and family get-togethers quite often turn into ad-hoc interventions that are quickly thrown together by families and will likely do more harm than good. Interventions need to be planned and deployed with great care and with the help of a certified interventionist. Timing must also be carefully considered, and your certified interventionist is probably not going to suggest your Christmas or New Year’s Eve Party as the “perfect time for an intervention.”

The Mother That Wants to Wait Until the New Year to Address The Family’s Problems - Mother #2

This story is a little more somber, because the need for intervention is more urgent, and there is the likelihood of a very sad ending to this story if the family does not handle the situation correctly.

Mother #2 is a young (22) new mother, Celebrating a first Christmas with a healthy new baby boy. The baby’s father (also 22) is happy and proud, but still struggling with excepting his dual role as a father and a recovering heroin addict – an addiction that grew from abusing painkillers in high school.

The couple’s relationship is far from perfect and, since Thanksgiving, the stress has been building. They try to maintain appearances, as best they can, portraying a beautiful young couple celebrating baby’s first Christmas. Sadly, the problems are growing and can’t remain hidden much longer.

The father has started using heroin again, and mom knows it. It was just a little, and just a couple of times, and it was just when he needed some “time to himself.” Father promises it will never happen again. Friends aren’t as quick to disregard it and press the mother to get father to seek help and enter treatment again.

Addiction: Sometimes, It Can’t Wait Until After The Holidays

Thankfully, heroin overdoses and deaths related to opioid overdoses are not occurring at the staggering rates they were just a few years ago. That is why we hear less on the news about overdoses and deaths from heroin, because the numbers aren’t as staggering. But, make no mistake, the problem persists.

There is still, going into the year 2020, a massive problem in the United States with deadly batches of heroin. People are still dying from using even small amounts of heroin. We want to stress this again… If your loved one is using heroin – DO NOT WAIT. Get them help before it is too late.

Mother #2 Has a Decision to Make

Father lied again, and he is using again. Mother #2 caught him with heroin, and she flushed it. The time for talk is over, she has decided. Father needs to enter treatment again. But it is the holidays, and Christmas is planned and family is coming into town. Mother starts to consider that it can wait until after the holidays, because that is only 2 more weeks. Then she can deal with this with a clearer mind, and that just seems like a better time to start making waves. Mother has a decision to make.

Father also has a decision to make; with his heroin down the drain and the first signs of heroin withdrawal starting to show, he too is not sure if he can wait 2 more weeks.

Deadly Batches of Heroin Being Found Across the United States During the Holidays of 2019

As of today, December 22, 2019, there are still hundreds of Americans dying each day across the United States from heroin and opioid overdoses. Many of those deaths continue to be blamed on synthetic opioids that are being mixed in with illicit drugs like heroin and even counterfeit prescription opioid pills.

We at Family First Intervention deal with very serious addictions every day, including cases involving heroin and opioids, and we want families to really hear and understand us when we say that heroin addiction is very serious and requires immediate attention. Deadly batches of drugs are everywhere, and we are still losing family and friends to this horrific epidemic.

Heroin addiction simply cannot wait to be dealt with in 2020, because we are still losing loved ones in 2019…

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Mike Loverde

As a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP), member of NAATP, NAADAC, and accredited by the Pennsylvania Certification Board, Mike Loverde knows first-hand what it’s like to live life with addiction. By overcoming it, he had a calling to work with others who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions—the people who use and the families who feel helpless watching them decay.

With thousands of interventions across the United States done and many more to come, Loverde continues to own the intervention space, since 2005, by working with medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and others who need expert assistance for their patients who need intervention. To further his impact on behavioral health and maximize intervention effectiveness, Loverde is near completion of a Masters in Addiction Studies (MHS) accreditation, as well as a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC), and is committed to attaining the designation of a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).

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