“Hi, my name is John. I am an alcoholic.”
This is probably the most difficult but also the bravest words ever to be spoken by a person suffering from some form of addiction. This is not merely the person acknowledging that he has a problem but also a willful decision to do something.
To be an addict means that you are physically and mentally dependant on a substance such as alcohol, illegal drugs, or medicine, which ultimately takes over your life. According to The National Institute for Drug Addiction (NIDA), over 23 million Americans suffer from alcohol or drug addiction.
In this blog, we focus on how we can be supportive of a recovering addict over Thanksgiving and other festive holidays. Furthermore, we will be taking a look at the various ways in which you, as a recovering addict, can survive the festivities while enjoying it at the same time.
It’s a daily battle
Once an addict, always an addict.
It has been said that addiction is a family disease, as one person may use, but the whole family suffers.
Although referred to as a recovered addict, many will tell you that the battle is far from being won. A possible relapse is just waiting to happen – however sad it may sound, it’s true.
For those of us fortunate enough not to be caught up in the web of addiction, it is tough to realize and comprehend just how many challenges and temptations addicts have to face daily.
Only when you take the time to really look around will you truly see all the temptations lurking.
Or is it?
Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks and enjoy the festivities that go along with it. Little do we know that this day, like all other holidays, is stressful for many recovering addicts.
As old feelings resurface and old memories come knocking, many addicts prefer to spend these festive days alone. They know that relapsing is never far off.
Of course, we want to avoid this! The good news is that it can be accomplished with the help of family and friends.
We need to understand that for a recovering addict, it is a conscious decision not to drink or not to do drugs, whereas for you and me – we don’t even think about it. For a recovering addict, it takes a lot of will power, restraint, and discipline to make such a decision and stick with it.
Would it not be fantastic if you could help to lighten the burden of difficult choices as a family member or friend? Who knows, perhaps a possible relapse can be prevented.
But how can you help?
It is heartbreaking to see a loved one struggle with addiction. Once recovered, it is crucial to keep the person focussed and on track. As family and friends, we can help with the recovery process and make the holidays as pleasurable as possible.
What you can do:
Build trust and communicate. It is essential for a recovering addict to know that they can talk to you when they feel down, stressed, frustrated, or tempted.
Remove all substances from the home/premises that might be tempting. Remove all medicines, cough syrup, and mouthwash from the bathroom cabinets, as well as alcohol and other products such as liquor-filled chocolates, etc.
Why not have an alcohol-free holiday? Don’t be selfish. Forget about alcohol for the day or improvise. Make mocktails or find other alternatives.
Play games to shift their focus. Play games and keep them distracted. Also, avoiding playing drinking games or games involving alcohol.
Pay attention. Keep an eye on them for any sudden change in behavior or mood. This is necessary so that you can intervene if need be.
Communicate beforehand. Talk to your loved one and ask him what his expectations are for that day. What can you do to make things easier? What could be an issue or a possible trigger?
Be realistic. Don’t expect a cheerful mood the whole time. Remember, every day is an uphill battle for a recovery that requires self-discipline and a lot thereof.
No hovering. Although they need someone to look out for them – they do not want a babysitter. Do not hover over them the whole time.
The Recovering Addict
If you are a recovering addict yourself, here are a few tips to assist you during Thanksgiving Day and the coming festivities.
Rehearse. When faced with many people, it is a good idea to rehearse beforehand as to what you are going to say when confronted with specific questions. This will ensure that you are not placed on the spot and put under unnecessary pressure.
Avoid being alone and bored. Make plans with family and friends (who support you and care about you) or create to-do lists for yourself. This will keep your mind occupied.
Rather stay away. If you know that there will be a lot of alcohol or drugs at a particular gathering, do not go!
Break the habit. If you are not one for Thanksgiving celebrations – start your own tradition, and in this way, you can avoid the celebration altogether.
Remember your Buddy. Call your sponsor when you need to speak to someone or if you find yourself in a difficult situation.
Bring your own drinks. Pack your own drinks to avoid being tempted or left without something to drink.
Have a plan of action in case of an emergency. Signal a friend or have a special word that, when signaled or spoken, they know that it is time to get you out of there.
Find your inspiration and strength in the Word of God.
By this time, you know us!
At Largest Heart, we believe that there is so much we can learn from God's Word, also in these situations. Here are some points to ponder.
1 Corinthians 8:13, NIV: "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall."
Here Paul warns us not to do anything that will lead someone into temptation and possibly cause them to stumble and fall. Having that one drink may not make a difference in your life, but it can shatter the resolve of a recovering addict.
1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
We need to be there for one another and to love another. An addict or a recovering addict already knows that he is wrong and does not need our rejection, but instead our help, guidance, and love.
How wonderful to know that we, as family and friends, in Christ, can profoundly impact the life of a recovering addict or addicts.
We believe that every story can have the most beautiful ending if we stand together, rooted in God’s Word. From our Largest Heart to yours – may you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!