At the best of times, spending a holiday with family can be a stressful endeavor. Virtually all of us have family members that rub us the wrong way and while we hope for an enjoyable few hours around the table, often it is fraught with arguments, egos and general nastiness.
Many of us in recovery may have unresolved issues with one or more family members. After all, addiction and mental health disorders don’t only affect the individual themselves, but truly everyone around them feel the effects. Parents and siblings may feel a great deal of resentment toward you while, on the other hand you may resent them for situations that may have led to or worsened your addictive behavior. And while the best addiction and mental health treatment programs endeavor to repair relationships in the family, sometimes this can take a while and other times, it is simply impossible.
Go if You Can
One of the beautiful takeaways you receive from addiction counseling is how to cope with adverse situations. This is not just a coping mechanism for the temptations that surround us every day; these are also mechanisms to cope with the sometimes-unreasonable personalities that can trigger the need to use again. If you believe that you have reached a point where you can separate the actions and comments from the worst offending family members, now may be a great to reintegrate family traditions and get the warm and fuzzies that you want.
If you have made progress working through potential issues with your family members, and you know that the likelihood is good that you will all have a nice time, it may be worth trying.
Of course, even with the best of intentions, a nice holiday get together can turn sour with a single comment or look. Now, it is up to you to process those cues in a way that does not bring black a flood of memories, frustrations, and resentments. Ultimately, no matter what someone says or does, you have the ability to control your reaction and move on from it. If it any point the get together becomes emotionally or verbally abusive, don’t hesitate to excuse yourself and end the day prematurely. While frustrating, you need to remind yourself that your relationships are still a work in progress, even years down the road, so don’t get discouraged.
However, there are certain circumstances when going back may not be best option. This may include situations in which you have unresolved emotional or even physical issues with those who will be present. This is particularly true for clients with unresolved concerns stemming from abuse. Seeing and interacting with the abuser is very different from coming to terms with what happened and being at peace. Further, if bad influences (often those with whom you used) will be a part of your holiday – and sometimes they are inextricably linked – you may also wish to avoid these get-togethers – maybe next year, invite your family to visit you.
Ultimately, the decision to celebrate the holidays with your family is intensely personal. There will be several factors that sway you in one direction or another. However, be sure to prioritize your mental and physical health over everything. Losing either would be catastrophic and no holiday get together is worth risking it.
If you are comfortable doing so, feel free to reach out to any one of the dozens of resources available, from support group buddies to the licensed therapists at Destination Hope. With our help, you can understand what the best course of action may be for you and your continued recovery.