According to one of the many definitions of holiday, "it is a day designated as having special significance for which individuals, a government, or religious groups have deemed that such observation is warranted."
To some, the preparation of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever special winter holiday you may observe is as joyous as it gets and an opportunity to be and feel festive. Family and friends come together to celebrate taking out the old and bringing in the new.
Hmm... a lovely thought, but what if there is an alcoholic/addict in your life, and you both desire to spend all or part of the holidays together, yet maybe you are both anxious nonetheless?
The desire to have the family together can be a strong pull for any parent, spouse, sibling or friend, and even with the hopes, desires and promise that everything will go as planned, it is that wise parent, spouse, sibling or friend that presents a clear head as to how they would like to see the festivities gel as it pertains to the involvement of their loved one, the alcoholic/addict.
For healthy openers, you will be more comfortable and confident if you keep in mind that you are in control, not the alcoholic/addict. This active role on your part has you establishing fair yet concrete boundaries and keeping your expectations to a minimum.
I have written previous blogs on boundaries and expectations, but since they are the cornerstone for you in dealing with the alcoholic/addict in your life, they are worth repeating.
Here are a few concepts that, if implemented, could make the difference between a successful holiday experience or a disaster:
- Pick boundaries that are important to you and must be adhered to by the alcoholic/addict in order to be welcomed to participate in the family festivities. Such boundaries include arriving at the designated time, being well groomed and dressing appropriately; being clean and sober (this is paramount to participation: if you smell alcohol on their breath or they act intoxicated or high, you will not let them in, or if they live there, you will ask them to stay away from the festivities until the event is over); and maintaining a cheerful and kind demeanor (this is also an entry ticket, as anger or a woe-is-me, chin-on-the-buttons attitude is not welcome).
Now let's look at expectations.
- Keep your expectations in check. Realize that you are dealing with someone who might not be as true to their word as you would like them to be. Though you might be disappointed, you won't be surprised.
Boundaries and expectations are extremely hard to implement and curb, respectively. I know this all too well, as I have struggled with them for the last 20 years while dealing with my own family's substance abuse issues. A few months ago I wrote a blog post about my own daughter's relapse. This will be the first Thanksgiving in many years that we will spend together. I don't know whether she will show up with her sweatshirt hood pulled so low that I can barely see her chin or with clean hair, makeup and a smile on her face. I have clearly given her my boundaries, and she has agreed to abide by them; I pray to God that she does, for it will break my heart if I have to turn her away, but turn her away I will if I feel compromised or disrespected. I must be true to my boundaries and leave my expectations in the trunk of the car.
Please remember that you, too, deserve a fulfilling and memorable holiday. Don't allow your loved one, who may still be struggling in various parts of their disease, to take that away from you. I am more than certain that if you don't spend this holiday season with them, there will be others.
I want to wish everyone reading this blog a joyous and healthy holiday season with a stocking full of self-respect and dignity. Remember that you are in charge and can empower yourself to make anything happen that you want!