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.
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.