Coping with the Addict in Your Life Over the Holidays

Setting boundaries over the holidays.

Posted Dec 07, 2019

The holidays can be an exceptionally difficult time for people of all ages and in all different family situations. For those who have addiction in their family, the holidays can be particularly problematic, especially when it comes to making healthy decisions, maintaining boundaries, and having the ability to let go of those unrealistic expectations. 

The holidays set up the perfect conditions for emotional abuse by an addicted partner or family member. Those who have addiction in their family  may also be struggling with both addictive and potentially emotionally abusive or disengaged parents and partners, which can make the issues seem all the more complicated and complex. 

The addict is well aware of the importance of the season, which can be amplified and brought to bear as a weapon against a partner. There is a never-ending supply of things to create feelings of guilt, shame, imperfection, loss of love, and threat of blowing up the season that the addict can leverage. 

However, the partner of the addict need not fall into this same old trap. She can prepare herself, or he can prepare himself, to deal with the behaviors and mental manipulation of the addict partner or parent. 

One of the most effective things to do is to create a mental vision of how you want to maintain yourself over the holiday season. Think about what you want to do, who you want to see and spend time with, and what you want to highlight as the meaningful things over this important time of year. 

In some cases, this may mean limiting your contact with negative or emotionally abusive people, including those who drink or use, which means practicing saying "no" and sticking with your decision. 

To help to prepare for the drama, possible manipulation, emotional and mental games, or even the potential for having to cancel or limit certain events and activities, developing a plan of action on how to manage your own best interests and mental health over the holiday needs to be a priority. 

Set Expectations in Advance

For a partner of an addict, setting expectations and rules around the behavior by the addict or alcoholic can be a challenge. Well in advance of the special meal or event, have a structured, clear conversation about what you expect. This includes expectations about the non-consumption of alcohol at the event or the use of drugs at or prior to arrival. 

Holding the event in your home, and not theirs, allows you to ask them to leave. Another option may be to have it at the home of a relative or friend who is confident in standing up to the addict or alcoholic if there is any breach of the rules. 

Make Meetings Short 

Consider meeting in public and going for a coffee or a walk, or perhaps taking in a movie or doing something you both enjoy. By having a limited, short window of exposure, you can often prevent any of the drama or emotional abuse that is associated with longer contact, where you may fall into the trap of feeling cornered or captive to the other person.

Let Them Be Responsible for Their Behavior 

Make this the holiday season where you stop making excuses and trying to clean up their issues. Be supportive and offer assistance, but do not accept that you are to blame if they are drunk or high. Instead, be your own individual and spend time with the people you enjoy, even if that means not knowing what the addict or alcoholic is doing throughout the holiday season.