Addiction and Thanksgiving - When Addiction Spirals Out of Control
Addiction is an unmanageable and progressive disease on its own in the everyday life of an addict, but around Thanksgiving when families come together, addictions of every kind quickly spiral out of control. Addiction is usually not the main problem in any given addict's life, but rather a symptom of it. Addiction that results from compulsive use of a substance or engagement in an activity serves as an escape from reality for the addict, and at Thanksgiving when an addict is faced with family members whom they love and know are judging them, escape is more important than ever.
The Escape of Addiction at Thanksgiving
Addiction creates an alternate reality for any addict, no matter what the subject of their addiction may be. Not only does this alternative reality created by addiction feel good to addicts, but the disease of addiction also tells the addict that this alternate reality is all that is normal for them. Consequentially, the addict becomes more withdrawn from reality, friends, and family. When they are forced to face family and reality at Thanksgiving, addicts may try to tell themselves to hold it together for just one day, but the end result is most often a sharp spike in their addictive behaviors. The reason for this is human nature. We all want to be as comfortable as we can be in any situation, especially one where we have something to hide or feel ashamed of. For an addict, comfort lies in the subject of their addiction and nowhere else. The more tension or conflict, the more drug and alcohol consumption, or gambling, or sex, or video gaming, or exercise an addict will engage in to feel more comfortable and able to handle the dissent.
Families and Addicts at Thanksgiving
One of the hardest things about addiction is watching helplessly as your loved one destroys themselves. Because addiction is such an insidious disease, it takes the true individual away from the world and replaces him/her with a compulsive, irresponsible, selfish, insensitive, and immature addict who lies, steals, and destroys everything in their path. Often families of addicts do not understand what addiction is, how it works and how to address it. Many families of addicts simply react to the behaviors of the addict, which are most often extremely negative, hurt, and confused.
How Families Handle Addicts Around Thanksgiving
Another problem created by addiction in the family around Thanksgiving is dissent between the sober members of the family when several members are in disagreement over how to address the addict for the best chance of his or her survival. While frequently debated, there is only one way to handle addicts when they are in the grip of their addiction. Many loved ones of addicts feel a natural urge to protect and nurture, and almost instinctually enable the addict by providing money, rides, and shelter, and bailing out from jail and welcoming addicts into their home after leaving addiction treatment prior to completion. While it is heartbreaking to see anyone suffer from any disease, addiction remains unique in the fact that it is counter-responsive to attention and self-sacrifice. Addiction grows stronger and gets progressively worse with enablement. The easier it is for an addict to be an addict, the harder it will be to convince them that their lives are unmanageable. If an addict knows that every time he/she engages in addictive behavior, someone will be there to welcome them, why change? It is human nature to resist change when we're comfortable with something. Your favorite food is your favorite for a reason - because it makes you feel good.
Generally in a family with one or more members who are aware of how to treat addicts, just knowing that the most effective way for family to address addiction is to shut it out, and do nothing to help their loved one stay an addict for another day - provide endless help and support for addiction treatment, but not the continued behaviors of addiction, can cause tremendous conflict at Thanksgiving. When there is a disagreement about how to address an addict it becomes frustrating for everyone involved. While the entire family may know that they all have to have a united message to the addict, when any member of the family of an addict tries to make the addict change by providing support, any other efforts are immediately negated. An addict only needs one person to turn to for support in order for the addiction to keep winning and the addict to keep losing his/her life.
During the Thanksgiving holidays when families gather for what is supposed to be a good and happy time, addicts and their families often go overboard on their respective paths. For the addict, whatever the subject of their addiction may be will be their only friend and only source of comfort at times during the Thanksgiving holiday, so addicts have historically had a tendency to overdo their usual compulsive, addictive behavior due to the heightened tension and stress of the Thanksgiving holiday. For the families, they are either so shocked and appalled to be witnessing their loved one in such an unmanageable state during the Thanksgiving holiday, or they are so fed up with having to go through yet another Thanksgiving holiday with the same addiction issues that are tearing themselves and loved ones apart. Either way, families tend to look toward the holidays for hope and miracles, good things to happen and a positive change for the new year. To see a loved one killing themselves and destroying everything around them, whether it's the 28th year of dealing with addiction, or the first time it's reared it's ugly head, is heartbreaking,especially around times that are supposed to be happy, about family, togetherness, and good cheer.
Co-Dependency with Addicts at Thanksgiving
Once dissent begins to creep into the family of the addict, all it takes is one weak link in the form of someone who will do anything for the addict, including paying for anything, providing shelter for any period of time, rides, or accepting phone calls, unless or until the addict is asking for help in getting into addiction treatment. It is important for families at Thanksgiving to provide a united front toward the addict, and if a solution cannot be agreed upon by all participants of Thanksgiving, serious thought should be given to whether or not the addict should be at the event at all. Addiction is a devastating disease for every life it touches, but when families become too involved in the lives of their addicted loved ones, they too can become sick with co-dependency and require family co-dependency treatment.
Co-dependent, as defined in the dictionary is "of or pertaining to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way." When an individual is codependent with an addict, it can be just as dangerous as the original addiction has been to the addict. in families of addicts, it is not uncommon for mothers and grandmothers to be most affected by codependency from their natural urge to protect and care for their babies. It is often very difficult to reconcile being able to still love, but to do so from a distance, but that is essentially what is necessary for the best hopes of getting an addict to admit to his/her problems and seek professional addiction treatment. A codependent member of an addict's personal circle can be just as deadly to the addict as the subject of his/her addiction. Codependent people will enable an addict and obsess over him/her to the point at which they become a literal martyr, throwing themselves on the coals physically and psychologically for the addict, meanwhile the addict has access to everything the codependent person has to continue with their addiction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction this Thanksgiving holiday, there is hope and there is help. Please call us now to speak with a caring, qualified professional who can help you to find the best solution for you and your loved ones. We are here to help.