The Best of Times…The Worst of Times. It takes a family.
“It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times.”
~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
For families who have to endure the holidays with a loved one stuck in a cycle of addiction, this time of the year, meant to be the most joyous for families–can be dreaded for some.
Ho Ho Ho. Merry Christmas.
Thanksgiving has come and gone and Christmas and New Year’s Day are just ahead. I like getting close to the end of the year and doing a bit of reflection. It’s also nice to do some planning for the coming year.
Sadly this is not the case for everyone; especially those families who have to endure the holidays with a loved one stuck in a cycle of addiction. The time of the year that is meant to be the most joyous for families can be dreaded for some.
In her excellent book, “It Takes A Family” Debra Jay talks about the challenges families face—not just during holidays, but year-round and how it literally changes those close to the addict. In many cases this has become a vicious cycle, year after year. So how does this impact the moms, dads, siblings, friends and/or spouses?
In chapter 10 (“Families Pay a High Price”) of her book “It Takes A Family”, Debra states:
“Chronic stress changes our brains. It causes disease. There is a great deal of truth in the statement, “I’m worried sick.” Short-lived stress doesn’t hurt us. But stress reaches a point when it can become toxic. Since emotions impact every cell in the body, when stress persists over time we are set on a course for declining health and even premature aging.”
Amen to all that! Over time, we (at Changing Lives Foundation) have come to expect that the phone-ringing picks up the pace this time of year. The sad reality is, at a time when family relationships and moments with loved ones is so important—for some families, these holidays just get more painful.
Later in this same above-quoted chapter Debra writes,
“Every structure in our brains is influenced by what is happening in our surroundings. If our family environment isn’t healthy, it’s likely our brain isn’t either. According to Elizabeth Gould, PhD, of Princeton University, chronic stress causes our brain to starve.”
The good news is (and yes there is GOOD NEWS for families) it just doesn’t have to be this way. If the family members will look for helpful resources and attend groups that will support them, they can learn to enjoy (to some degree) these special times—whether the addict participates or not! Much of this depends on a family member’s willingness to reach out and seek help. The same holds true for the person caught up in addiction. They too can make dramatic changes if they will seek the help they need.
There is much truth and wise counsel in Debra’s book and mine as well (It’s still a great question, “WHY Don’t They Just Quit?”).
For the substance abuser and their family, the help will start to come out of the “woodwork” if it’s sought.
Moms, dads, friends, siblings and spouses need to acknowledge and know that they didn’t cause the addiction, they can’t cure the addiction and they can’t control the addiction (the three C’s). No more guilt, no more “wouldas, couldas and shouldas.” If harsh words, bad parenting, single-parent homes, even genetics caused addiction we would be seeing A LOT more of it.
Make some plans now to begin doing the right things in the coming new year AND to stop doing some or all of the wrong things. Plan to learn what works and unlearn or quit doing what will never work.
Grace and peace,
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“Why Don’t They Just Quit?
What families and friends need to know
about addiction and recovery”
From “The Best of Times…The Worst of Times.”
to Changing Lives Foundation Blog Home
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times, takes a family