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Married to an addict? A guide to surviving the Holidays

Loneliness, fear, and anger for the Holidays

I remember my last holiday season with my ex-husband, a drug addict. He was disappearing more and more until, finally, he left for good right before Thanksgiving.

My daughter and I had no Christmas tree. I had to have my mother help me buy gifts for her. In prior years, we would decorate our live tree with ornaments and lights, have friends over for holiday meals, go ice-skating, and do other seasonal activities. Our big house was barren, as I sold off my things so I could leave right after the New Year.

We tried to engage in some Christmas activities, just the two of us, but I think it was too sad and I wanted to skip Christmas altogether that year.

While you might not be in this current situation – at the moment – you can probably relate to my feelings of loneliness, fear, and anger. How can you prepare for the Holidays when you are in an addict family or married to an addict? What are some pitfalls to avoid? A guide to the Holidays here, with a section at the end for you to share your story or to ask questions.

TIP 1: Prepare for the emotions

During the Holidays, emotions become intensified whether you are spending them alongside the addict or if the addict is gone. When families are coming together and demonstrating their love for one another, you may feel anything but festive. Quite the opposite, a co-addict, feels a heightened sense of awareness about how things are really not right. While other families are taking Christmas pictures and visiting tree lightings and Santa, you might be:

  • picking your loved one off the floor after passing out drunk or high
  • fighting about the lack of money you have because it all goes to drugs
  • spending the season alone because your partner is out getting high all of the time
  • stressing about exchanging gifts with other loved ones and buying gifts for your children because of the shortage of money
  • feeling extremely overwhelmed and depressed that your husband or wife is not present either emotionally, physically or both
  • scared for your loved one’s life
  • embarrassed to arrive at family or friendly holiday gatherings for fear of how your partner might behave

TIP 2: Expect as possible Holiday season relapse

The holidays can be a cruel reminder that your life is falling apart; however, the season can also exacerbate an addict’s drug use. Drinking amongst families and at parties is more prevalent and people feel that they want to be a part of this celebration. Toasts are made and an addict feels the pressure of being different and not being able to partake.

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The Holidays may also remind an addict of what they lost because of their addiction, and they may feel more alone and separated from their loved ones. These emotions amplify an addict’s thinking that using drugs or alcohol at this time might be a good idea.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attribute excessive drinking to 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential lives lost each year in the United States from 2006-2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years (CDC 2015). The CDC states that from 2005-2007, poisoning was a leading method in suicide deaths, and drugs and/or alcohol make up 75% of suicide deaths due to poisoning (CDC 2015).

Since statistics show that those dependent on drugs and alcohol are more likely to commit suicide, the Holidays are an even more scary time for families of addicts.

TIP 3: Learn to survive the Holidays

It is important that we take extra special care of ourselves during the Holidays so that the added stresses do not make things worse. The Holidays do not have to be Hell. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself and your children from your partner’s addiction;

  • Let people know in advance that this year you cannot exchange gifts and you would prefer spending time together.
  • Do not shy away from family gatherings, try to spend time with people you love and who understand what is going on.
  • Do not bring the addict to events where you know he/she will make a scene or drag your mood down. Try activities on your own.
  • Spend time with those you love at their houses, making cookies, and doing simple things that lift the spirit.
  • Do not think that drinking more will help. Try the opposite, try exercise, drinking more water and any activity that will help release those good chemicals that make us feel happy.
  • Avoid arguments over holiday stressors if you live with your addicted spouse; let things go and go about your life.
  • If you are living without your spouse this holiday, try connecting with other single people and/or single parents to do activities together so you don’t feel like the odd one out.
  • Make a physical or mental list of all of the things you are grateful for. Focus on those blessings.
  • The more positive affirmations you can express the better. Go online and download a video or view a list of affirmations that affirm your happiness and place in this world.

The Holidays can be a fun time of year!

Although the Holiday Season may be a more difficult time for the spouses and loved ones of an addict, they can still be enjoyable. Know that you cannot do more than what you are doing and try to engage with people who will understand your situation and help lift your mood. Be grateful for the things in your life that you do have and focus on them this year.

Reference Sources: Center for Disease Control (CDC) (2015). Alcohol and Health. Fact Sheet – Alcohol Use and Your Health. Retrieved December 7th, 2015
Center for Disease Control (CDC) (2015). Suicides Due to Alcohol and/or Drug Overdose. A Data Brief from the National Violent Death Reporting System. Retrieved December 7th, 2015

Leave a Reply

4 Responses to “Married to an addict? A guide to surviving the Holidays
Ashlee
11:33 pm December 25th, 2015

Amanda, wow I can’t believe all this time and energy it seems you go through to help others. This article is great. I truly wished I would have found it sooner. The Holidays are very tough for me. Waking up Christmas morning to my boyfriend locked in the bathroom. My fear of him not responding consisted of me racing downstairs, grabbing something to unlock the door along with a lot of Narcan.. Trembling… In fear I would find him unresponsive… I tell myself time and again that the good ways the bad when in reality as one of your blogs states it’s usually more bad times than good. I know he has potential to be a great man. But that image is slipping away. 5 years in April I will have been dealing with this. I feel I am close to ending things for good. I will begin with detaching myself as much as I can and trying to take care of myself. I spend countless hours arguing and degrading him for his faults. Wasting my breath with pleas for him to just stay clean. He might be good for a few weeks and then BOOM we are right back to square one. Our daughter will be 4 and is getting smarter and smarter by the day. I look forward to picking up your book and finding an Al anon group to help me Through this transition. Thank you so much for this site. I look forward to reading more posts. Pray I can find the strength. In the end I know I will much happier with a sober person or alone for that matter. Merry Christmas!

Amanda Andruzzi
9:30 pm January 8th, 2016

Ashlee,
I am sorry I did not see your post sooner. I went through twelve years of never knowing if my husband was using drugs, not using drugs, fooling myself into believing I could help him so I know that experience you are having and the feelings you are feeling. I left when our daughter was five and a half and she picked up on a lot of things I did not think she was. I got through it and that is why I dedicate so much time and energy to help others. I feel compelled to give back and if my experience can help even one person or allow people less time suffering, then I am grateful. You can and you will walk away because after all of this time, he has left you no choice. Christmas morning should not be about the fear of finding your loved one drugged up and possibly dead in the bathroom, it should be about appreciating your family and focusing on your child. You deserve better and so does your child. You cannot change him but you can make some changes. Please pick up Hope Street and keep me posted on what is going on. I am here to help.
Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict
View the Video BOOK Trailer: http://sbprabooks.com/amandaandruzzi/video/

Gail
3:34 am February 14th, 2016

I was just sat typing a reply to my cocaine addict ex, wanting to try to convince them to not leave me. Then I stop halfway through and think… after everything that I’ve read that you have written, both here and in your memoir, if I carry on accepting this in my life, I am always going to be the one that’s hurt. I can’t count the nights I have cried, sobbed from feeling a huge massive void in my chest, all while they are at home snorting coke and not giving two seconds thought about me. I’ve had a realisation, I deserve better than this, I deserve better than this! I’m crying as I write this because I so desperately wanted it to be them, but it can’t ever be. Thank you for everything Amanda. I’m hoping I can get stronger day by day and stop begging for them to be in my life and start concentrating on me. Thank you x

Amanda Andruzzi
7:34 pm April 5th, 2016

Gail, You are the master of your own destiny. If you want something different, something more, then you can make a change in your life. This is about you and unless you start working on your insecurities, which we all have, it won’t work. The focus has to shift from that person to you. You are important and you do deserve to be happy but your happiness cannot depend on another person, it can be enhanced by another but it cannot define you and your ability to lead a good life.
Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict
View the Video BOOK Trailer: http://sbprabooks.com/amandaandruzzi/video/

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About Amanda Andruzzi

Amanda Andruzzi, MPH, AADP, CHES, is a Certified Health Coach, founder of Symptom-Free Wellness, and the author of Hope Street. Her first book, Hope Street memoir is an inspirational story of one woman's frightening journey of co-addiction that led her to uncover courage, unbelievable strength and overcome great adversity. She resides with her daughter, husband, and two sons in Florida.

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