If you are in Recovery, the holidays can be hard.
Each individual has various levels of coping skills, time in Recovery, different triggers, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses.
There are too many variables to post an all-encompassing, accurate, blanket answer for everyone in Recovery who cannot decide if a family holiday gathering is right for them, right now.
So I think it is safe to say that ideally, you will have a wise sponsor, friend, accountability partner or someone else that you can confide in to get a little bit of guidance from on this matter.
Here are some things different situations that I came up with that might help a little bit if you can’t decide whether or not it is a good idea to show up at your family Thanksgiving this year.
The mere thought of spending time with your family makes you feel like you want to use your d.o.c? You start to think of where you can go to get some or who you can call “just in case” (Drug of Choice, the one that almost killed you, the one that you are trying to stay away from)
*Do you go?
If the thought alone is enough to get you worked up, thinking about using, and physically/emotionally vulnerable, stay home.
Maybe it’s too early for you and there is work to be done to ensure that you are strong enough to make it through regardless of the reasons that you are already feeling unsure right now.
****Hypothetical family situation #1:
You have a supportive family, but they don’t understand addiction.
They love you but think that you are cured. It might annoy you or irritate you to be asked ridiculous questions, or to feel like addiction is thought of as a weakness. Maybe, their lack of understanding is insulting, despite the fact that they care and are open to forgiving you, love you and accepting you back into the family. *There is not any drug use or drinking happening at this family affair, simply a lack of understanding of what you went through and are still navigating.
*Do you go?
For this situation, I say go. Spend some time with your family. The only way to help them to understand is to share your story with them. Maybe take it slowly, share little bits at a time if asked. Always answer questions honestly, and lovingly. Try to remind yourself that not everyone has a healthy family to go back to or one at all. So, as annoying ask the misconceptions or lack of knowledge can be, it is something that you can work with and over time, more people might begin to see addiction in a new light. Because of you taking the time to invest in answering their questions.
If educating themselves seems like something they sound interested in, direct them to Al-anon or a helpful website that they can read. Don’t give up on them, they didn’t give up on you.
****Hypothetical Family Situation #2:
Same love as above situation, same acceptance, same forgiveness.
However there is a lack of empathy for your disease, or respect for the possibility of a lapse for you as a result of a lack of knowledge on the part of the family.
You are an alcoholic. Knowing this, many will still be drinking despite the fact that you are going to attend, but they will not hound you to drink. They are loving, yet naive.
*Do you go?
For me, this would depend on your personal progress in Recovery.
You need to be honest with yourself here. Are you strong enough to be around alcohol?
Can you go all day long, watching other people pour it into their cups or pop off the tops of their ice-cold beer, without caving?
Have you been in situations like this prior to this Thanksgiving holiday? How did you do?
This is where rigorous honesty comes in.
This risk is not to be taken lightly, and shouldn’t be played with. Not when your sobriety is hanging in the balance. But you cannot hide forever.
If you know you are strong enough and have tools under your belt, I say go.
When you leave that gathering sober, you will have a whole new confidence within yourself. You will see that your hard work is tangible, and that you are capable of so much more than you thought.
****Hypothetical Family Situation #3:
Same as above situation – identical.
EXCEPT- they will pressure you intermittently all day long to drink.
They forget that you don’t and cannot drink and will ask repeatedly.
Do you go?
I say IF you go, have your own car, a friend’s number who will be more than happy to come and pick you up, a route to the nearest bus stop, a number and some cash for a cab or an awesome cousin, brother, etc. who will run you home with left overs if you need to get out asap.
It is tough to go where there will be alcohol, even if the people love you, accept you, and forgive you. In Recovery, emotions are a tad irregular and it is hard to keep anger/temper under control. This, mixed with the temptation to have a drink and have it offered to you all day long persistently, is a dangerous combination.
One ‘sure’ or ‘ya’ can ruin your progress, hurt peopl,e or worst case scenario…
take your life.
**Hypothetical Family Situation #4:
Tons of great people. No drugs, alcohol will be around, consumed by others who don’t get drunk or belligerent. Of those great people, your cousin (or relative etc.) is also in Recovery, but you are both in very different stages. You have both gotten into some trouble together before, and in the past bad things happen when you two are together. There is also the possibility of violence erupting if that person slips.
*Do you go?
Remember, you have learned that you are only responsible for you. Your program requires you to be honest with yourself. You have to face the facts. That person may slip. They may try to cause you to lapse. Are you ready to face that situation head on? Do you have a plan to deal with that if it comes up?
If so, I say go.
Again, you are only as strong as you believe you are. You can’t avoid and run from these kinds of situations, you work through them. If you are comfortable enough to face them, and understand the true reality of what you could be walking into, it is a risk but one that you are ready to handle. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced or swayed. Walk in with confidence, keep your distance, and walk out with your integrity.
****Hypothetical family situation #5:
Drama, drama, drama. The family has conflict and most of it has always been unresolved. Sometimes things are calm, but a lot of the time there is fighting going on. Not just friendly banter or light bickering, but the possibility of fist fights, tears, raised voices or police. There is also alcohol and drug use.
*Do you go?
No. You don’t go. You go with a friend to their family get together. You find a church that is hosting a big to-do, maybe find a shelter that you can serve at or even a meeting and a dinner to go to. If all else fails, order out or cook your own turkey and watch Netflix.
I have dealt with years of the above scenario. I know it hurts to distance yourself from it and above all, your brain wants to keep stressing the fact that ‘this is all you have’ or ‘this is your blood’ and you have some sort of obligation to fulfill here.
I disagree. If it severely messes with your freedom (having no warrants, a clean record, no fines, no court dates, no bounty hunters looking for you etc) It isn’t worth it.
If it destroys your serenity, that peace you have found…the storm inside of you is calm, feeling positive and is on the right track, it isn’t worth it.
If it poses a risk to your personal physical safety, no explanation necessary. It is not worth it.
Listen, we are trying to live new lives. That doesn’t automatically mean cut your family off. But if they pose a high risk to every part of your well-being, inside and out….
If you decide that ‘to go’ is your decision-
always have a plan b.