It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. A chance for people to get together, celebrate their blessings and overindulge in all things nice. But for families living with addiction at Christmas it can be fraught with tension. Many will spend whatever break they get trying to hide indiscretions, managing problem behaviour and avoiding the elephant in the room for fear of ruining the “perfect” day.
With endless opportunities to eat, drink and be merry, anyone struggling with alcohol addiction is forced to face their triggers on a daily basis. Recreational drugs, such as cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine, are normalised as fun, party drugs. And, as people modify their behaviour to keep up with the Joneses, problematic habits with shopping, food and even mobile phones join the party.
The reality is that addiction is no fun for anyone. Neither the person suffering nor friends and family on the receiving end. Everyone should be able to enjoy Christmas without the threat of addiction looming like the Grinch. We’re here to show that there is help available and what you can do if you’re worried about living with addiction at Christmas.
Want advice for coping with addiction at Christmas? Speak to Delamere
Make it a large. Have a double. Go, on, it’s Christmas. The pressure to drink more than we normally would at this time of year is there for all of us. For someone living with alcohol addiction, it’s dangerous. Family get togethers, festive nights out and work Christmas parties can make it easier to excuse problem drinking. Even at home, full fridges and stacked wine racks make it hard to escape temptation. So, what can you do if you’re struggling?
Make small changes
Christmas may bring an alcohol problem to the surface, but it’s not always the easiest time to deal with it. If you aren’t ready to enter a residential rehab programme you could start by cutting down. Make sure to reduce your alcohol intake gradually as quitting suddenly could cause life-threatening complications. If you can’t avoid a Christmas night out, choose drinks with lower alcohol content or smaller measures.
Build a support network
Talk to someone. Most people will just be relieved you’ve recognised the problem and be happy to help. You could ask if alcohol be kept out of sight at home or make it inaccessible by locking it away. If co-dependence is an issue that is fuelling your alcohol addiction, talk to that person and put some joint boundaries into place. Agreeing on a few alcohol-free nights per week or setting an alcohol spending limit is something that can benefit you both.
Aside from the festival season, Christmas is a drug dealer’s busiest time of the year. House parties, nightclub events and impromptu benders spell big business for them and big trouble for people struggling with drug addiction. Despite being illegal, many recreational drugs are seen as a licence to party which can increase people’s acceptance and desensitize them to the dangers.
If you know you’re addicted to drugs, or trying to remain in recovery, you could avoid invitations to parties or events where you know drugs are involved. However, being alone and without supervision could present even greater dangers. Plan an exit strategy or a good excuse if things are heading in the wrong direction and try to surround yourself with people who know about your good intentions that can support you.
Many people turn to drugs at Christmas to escape negative emotions, anxiety or depression. You may be grieving a loved one’s death, navigating challenging family dynamics or feeling the pressure of putting on a brave face despite feeling low. There has been a significant rise in the abuse of prescription medications in recent years which people rely on even more heavily during the festive period. If you recognise any signs of addiction in yourself, such as craving higher amounts or being unable to stop taking drugs, it’s time to get help.
It isn’t only alcohol and drugs that present problems for people living with addiction at Christmas. The constant pressure to have and do more is also a breeding ground for other compulsive behaviours, such as eating, shopping and smart phone addictions. These behavioural problems all involve a repeated pattern of a particular behaviour or activity that a person becomes reliant upon.
Managing these kinds of addictions can be especially hard at Christmas. Each one becoming more complex as they feed off each other. For instance, research shows that 46% of compulsive shoppers also suffer with substance use disorders and 15% of those also have eating disorders.
The key thing is to understand what is triggering your behaviour and try to find ways to interrupt compulsive thoughts. Grounding techniques, such as ‘tapping’ and breathwork can be good ways to distract yourself. A trained therapist can also teach you how to use meditation and mindfulness to rewire your brain from its one-track thinking.
This year, the financial strain and uncertainty for many families will be stressful enough. Those living with addiction this Christmas need to practise extra self-care. While your loved one may not want to hear they have a problem, or even do anything about it, being honest in the run up to the festivities will save you all in the long run. Make sure you express your concerns from a place of love, rather than judgement, and be ready to work through problems together.
We all feel the pressure to put on a good show at Christmas, regardless of how stressed or depressed we truly are. This is the cornerstone of addiction. If unhealthy thoughts and feelings are continuously overlooked, they can grow into life-long problems. You can help a family member by speaking to a trained therapist who can help you to make sense of your emotions and work with your loved one to turn things around. It could be the greatest gift you ever give them.
If you or your family are facing a Christmas blighted by addiction, we can help. Delamere is the UK’s first purpose-built wellness retreat specialising in alcohol addiction, drug addiction and behavioural addiction. We know the festive period places even greater challenges on those struggling with addiction and can offer expert advice and support in your time of need.
Our residential rehab programmes are holistic and tailored to each individual. We take into consideration all aspects of a person’s well-being and how we can help them to best recover. For people who have developed substance use disorders, we can provide a medically supervised detox in safe and comfortable surroundings which minimises any unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
All addictions happen for a reason, often due to past trauma or stressful life experiences. Through one-to-one counselling, group therapy and somatic healing practices, we will find the root cause of the addiction and help you to develop coping mechanisms for during the Christmas period and beyond.
For friends and family worried about a loved one, we can stage an intervention and give you access to specialist support. Using evidence-based CBT therapies we can challenge any denial and resistance until they are motivated and willing to accept help. Christmas should be a time of joy for everyone. We will give you the tools to get through this year and enjoy the ones to come.
If you are concerned about living with addiction at Christmas, call us confidentially to speak to a member of the team today. Contact Delamere.
Youssef’s understanding of addiction come from time spent working in the recovery mentor role and his own personal experience. Alongside work, he is completing a degree in psychology at the University of Manchester.
RECENT POSTSInternet and Digital Addiction in the Media