Posted by Steps to Recovery on Dec 25th, 2012…Merry Christmas to the recovery community!

Christmas Alcohol RelapseThe holidays are definitely triggering and difficult for many people. Everything is overwhelming, people are stressed out, there’s a lot of rushing around and so many emotions can come up..Sadness, anger, guilt, deep sense of loss and inadequacy and so much more. The holidays are a very difficult and dangerous time for the addict, and especially those in early recovery. Sadly, my family experienced first hand how hard these times can be for the newly recovering addict last night at our annual Christmas party.

When my mom, my daughter and I arrived at my grandparent’s beautifully decorated and festive home last night we were greeted at the door with a mess…At a mere 5:00 in the evening. My cousin was in the front hall crying to my grandmother, I took 1 look at her and knew immediately that she wasn’t sober. 2 months of sobriety washed down the drain, my heart sunk through the floor for her. She saw us and rushed past my grandma and promptly attached herself to us to my dismay…I rarely see my family, maybe once a year, and I immediately started feeling anger as she filled up our space with her big energy and demand for attention. It was really hard for me to not get upset about it, I had a mixture of sadness for my mom, daughter and I and a feeling of anger and disappointment for my cousin. No one wanted to be near her, she was volatile and way out of control.

Eventually she snuck off to drink more, everyone knew what was going on and the sense of absolute disgust in the place was absolutely crushing. Pretty soon the announcement was made that Santa had arrived so we all went upstairs and soon my cousin came back in and sat with us, crying and trying to hug us and touch my daughter. She was unavoidable, my mom was starting to stress out, my baby was getting upset and finally I decided to get us away before it got to be too much so I said I needed to nurse my baby and whisked the 3 of us off to a private room. When we got back, my cousin had made such a scene that her dad took her and her daughters home early.

My aunt stayed for a little bit longer and asked me what she should do. I asked her what her rules had been around my cousin moving back home. The rules were that if my cousin was to live back at home she had to stay clean and sober. She had already broken this rule once, and now this. I gave my aunt the best advice I could..Stand strong and enforce the rules you set for your family.

I know it’s hard. My aunt has custody of my cousin’s 2 young daughters. It’s very sad. But if an addict can’t be accountable for herself, people need to enforce the healthy boundaries they set in their relationships with her. To enable the addict by accepting harmful and dangerous behavior is doing a huge disservice to everyone involved. My aunt and uncle don’t deserve to go through this, the little girls definitely don’t deserve to go through it and my cousin needs tough love. She needs someone to stand up for her highest self even when she can’t. This is not possible unless the people around her act in integrity.

My other advice to my family is not to allow her at family gatherings where there will be alcohol until she has been clean and sober for a year, better yet two. It should be her choice whether she attends or not and it’s her choice to drink, but she clearly cannot make the right decision. She went straight for the alcohol when she got there and when she was confronted about it she tried to justify it. She isn’t ready. Maybe she never will be. My other uncle doesn’t go because he is an alcoholic and can’t handle being around the alcohol. But until she can make the right choices for herself, places with alcohol freely available and readily accessible are not a supportive environment for her.

Sometimes it really hurts to say the hard thing, but it’s the best thing to do. Have you experienced a Christmas party relapse or a similar relapse at a family party? How did you cope with it?