Syringes to Sobriety

Stories and Advice from a Real Heroin Addict
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Coping with Holidays in Recovery- How to Avoid Smashing Easter Eggs

Happy Easter everyone.

Happy Easter

I wanted to write a quick post about dealing with family during the holidays.  There are plenty of articles providing tips to alcoholics coping with holidays in recovery, but it is not as easy to find articles directed toward drug users.  Holiday functions usually revolve around alcohol, so the dangers for those trying not to drink are obvious.  However, holidays are just as dangerous, sometimes even more dangerous, for drug users.

Obviously, a drug user does not need to worry about turning down a heroin fix during dinner, like an alcoholic may have to do with a glass of wine, so exposure is not the issue.  The main trigger for drug users Coping with holidays in recoveryduring a holiday is insidious and often unavoidable…this trigger is FAMILY.

There was a time when I was deep in a using cycle, where I could not bring myself to have so much as a phone conversation with any of my family members without getting sufficiently doped up first.  My family never meant to make me feel this way. but my own shame made me feel inadequate and I felt I needed to numb myself if I was to have a level-headed conversation with anyone who really cared about me.

Later on in recovery, I had to do some work, with a therapist, on my relationships with certain family members before I was able to have healthy conversations with them.  Conversations where I would not feel the need to get completely stoned beforehand.

This took months of counseling and we are still working on our relationships today so there is no immediate fix, certainly not in time for Easter dinner tonight. If you feel seeing family today is going to be detrimental to your recovery, you are not alone.

Your family may be loving and supportive, emotionally and physically abusive, or even cold and dismissive.  It does not matter what kind of family you have.  If you are struggling with drug use, you will inevitably feel drained after a family function. I call this the ‘after-family hangover.’  Getting high may seem like a great way to alleviate ‘after-family hangover’ symptoms, but it will cause you to take one step back in your recovery.  Eventually, you will have to learn to cope with your family.  It takes practice, but I would like to give you a head start.

How to Avoid Smashing

the Pretty Pastel Easter Eggs

Coping with family in recovery

1. SHOW UP, even if you have not stopped using completely.

Even when I was using, I tried my best to attend holiday functions with my family.  It is important to show your family you love them, even if you are strung out.  However, do not get completely fucked up before seeing your family. They will know and you will not escape the spotlight.  If you do this, none of these techniques will save you from distress.

Do not piss off Grandma

I hate that I have to say this but, DO NOT steal from your family members or ask for money at gatherings.  You will not be invited back next year and, when you decide you finally want to stop using, you will have lost the respect of the people who could be your best advocates.

If you are high, stop by, give hugs, eat some turkey, and leave.  Do not put your family through hours of watching you nod out at the dinner table.

Some may not agree with this advice.  If this is you, please consider this.  While I was using, I attended holiday functions with my family.  When the functions went smoothly, I would start to feel confident I could ask for help from my family.  These positive interactions pushed me toward making better decisions.

NOTE:  If there is an abusive dynamic between you and any of the family members that will be at the holiday function, consider avoiding the function until this family member has left.  Your recovery and sanity are more important than missing one holiday.  Also, if you are not welcome to a gathering, do not attend.  Unfortunately, you have lost this privilege.

If you have no family, or you are not welcome to your own family’s gatherings, find another place to go.  Many Anonymous meeting halls serve food and hold meetings over the holidays.  Churches are also a good place to look.  If you have any friends that are celebrating, see if you can join them for the holidays.  Being alone on a holiday, whether using or in recovery, is not the answer, EVER.

2. AVOID talking recovery with family members.

It is rare to find a family in which every member agrees with the recovery plan you have laid out for yourself.  Do not bring it up.

Instead, ask questions about how your family members are doing, to avoid putting your recovery in the spotlight.  After all, it is YOUR recovery, not Great Aunt Mildred’s.  What worked for cousin Johnny is not the same thing that is working for you.  As I have said repeatedly in this blog, every person’s recovery is unique.  There are as many ways to recover as there are individuals in the world.

3. PLAN your responses.Plan your responses

Have a plan when asked about your future. Have your answer ready before you sit down for dinner tonight. Keep it short and sweet.

Pick a hobby you have enjoyed lately and share your plan to start making an income from this hobby.

Do not be ashamed if you are working a humbling, ‘recovery’ job.  Explain how your job allows you to leave any work-related stress at the door after you clock out.  As a result, you are able to make ends meet while taking some much needed time to reflect on what you truly want out of life.

4. LET IT GO immediately.

Coping with family in recoverySome family members like to stick in the knife and twist.  Most of us have a screwed up a few things in our life.  For example, I did not finish my law degree.  My family knows I have been coping with recovery, but that does not stop some of them from bringing up my degree and pressuring me for my plan to complete it.

A family member will bring something like this up, no matter what. It in unavoidable. Smile, nod, agree, and change the subject!  Out of all days, today is not the day to discuss your failures and how you plan on fixing them.

5. PREPARE conversation starters and diversions.

Arrive armed with one-liner jokes and diversion questions.

Here are some jokes you can use:

For the raunchier family members:

  • What did the Easter Egg say to the boiling water?
    • It will take me a minute to get hard, I just got laid by some chick.

Tell Jokes

For the younger ones:

  • What happened to the Easter Bunny when he misbehaved at school?
    • He was eggspelled!

For all:

  • What do you call a rabbit with fleas?
    • Bugs Bunny!
  • Where does the Easter bunny eat his pancakes?
    • The IHOP, of course!

Diversion questions:

Who is the oldest family member you remember?

What invention seemed the most futuristic to you when it came out?

Tell me about the house you grew up in?  Did you have electricity? Plumbing?

These questions are great because they shift focus onto the other person.  Everyone loves talking about themselves.  You will sound engaged and you might learn something interesting!

6. THE CHILDREN’S TABLE

childrens table retreat

When in doubt, hang out at the children’s table:  Sometimes, the best place to hang out during a holiday family gathering is with the kids.  Kids do not know enough to judge you and they will always laugh at your dumb jokes.  If you are feeling stressed, find the little ones.  Within a couple of minutes, they will have you smiling a genuine smile again.

7. REMEMBER your family members are not substance abuse counselors.

They are bound to make mistakes.

Your mother will think she is doing the right thing crying to you because she is scared.  This will make you want to use.

Your father may choose not to say a single word to you this holiday because he is sick of your shit.

This will make you want to use.

Your aunt will go on for three hours about how well your cousin is doing since he made his first million last year.

This will make you want to use.

Give them a break, and ignore it.  Engaging will make the situation worse.

Decompressing without Drugs

No matter how you have coped in the past, surviving a family gathering is not an excuse to get high if you are in recovery.  Likewise, if you are not clean, surviving a gathering is not an excuse to take a bigger hit or do a bigger shot to celebrate.  You may not wake up and, trust me, you do not want your mother to remember your death every Easter for the rest of her life.  That would be selfish on your part.

You will feel relieved to have made it through dinner without any major incident.  Of course, as users, we want to celebrate things like this. What do we do to celebrate? We use!! I know, counter-intuitive, but true nonetheless.

Try this instead:

Eat an extra slice of pie and have a plan for when you get home.  Pick out a holiday movie with a friend that you can watch when you get home from your family function.  Pick a friend you can vent to easily because you will have things to vent about after spending a couple of hours with the fam.

If you have to be alone when you get home, get out your journal and write.  Write anything. Write about how Great Aunt Millie’s halitosis seems to have gotten worse in the last couple of years.  Write about how Cousin Johnny’s newest hobby, sculpting figurines out of cat hair, is one of the most ridiculous things you have ever heard.

Coping with family during holidays is rough, but it is possible.  I suggest having an exit plan so you can leave if you feel uncomfortable.  Leaving is better than letting arguments escalate.  If this happens, do not be discouraged.  Be proud that you tried.  I am proud of you!  If you have any questions, would like to add any advice, or need support, please leave a message below.

HAPPY EASTER.  BE SAFE.

xo, ANA

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8 comments on “Coping with Holidays in Recovery- How to Avoid Smashing Easter Eggs

  1. This is a great article. I am on in recovery however have family that has been struggling with drugs for some time. Although I am on the other side I found some great thoughts and insight in this article. Some things I wish my sibling would read and do and some things I didn’t think of more from his perspective as an addict that might help me be a better sister during these hard times. Thank you

    1. You are a wonderful sister Trish! One day your sibling will thank you for sticking by his or her side through rough times. Sometimes it is easier to harbor anger toward a drug user than it is to think about things from their perspective. It speaks to your character that you took the time to read this. Keep hugging the drug user in your life and saying I love you. Trust me, your sibling is fighting an epic battle and, with you on his or her side, the chances of success are much higher.

  2. What a nice post you wrote! I really enjoyed reading it and I could not be silent about your post so I decided to leave my comment here and say Thank You! For sharing this quality post with others.
    Actually this is exactly the information that I was looking for information about how to aboid smashing easter eggs and when I landed to your website and read this post, it answered all my questions in details.
    So I’m happy that you decided to write about this topic and share it with people. It’s very useful and can definitely be used as a great source for everyone.
    I will come back to your website again for sure and I’m looking forward to reading your new posts.)

    Thanks!

  3. Wow…ANA …I, your mum…learned a lot from this post ! Thanks for helping others with difficult family events. As parents we always want the best for our kids and little did we know that our actions can have the opposite effect. I would add one piece of advice to the addict who is attending family events while using…be on time…we understand that you have to time your use carefully but when you are SO late it effects everyone and we worry that you are in trouble, dead or in jail.

  4. Hello Ana, thank you for your sincere story and valuable pieces of advice and tips I’m sure will help many people who face the same problem. While reading your article, I tried to put myself in your shoes (I’ve never tried any drug in my life). However, as a parent – I wanted to learn more about “the other side of the coin”.

    I’d also like to mention that “behind” this article I see a person with determination, goals in her life, who does not give up easily:)
    Wishing you all the best,
    Vesna

    1. Thank you Vesna. Stay tuned for a new series of articles I will be posting. My mum is actually writing them now. It would be impossible for me to write from a drug user’s parent’s perspective, so I enlisted her services. I am positive there are many parents out there, trying their very best to keep their children alive and help them get sober, who will benefit from her experiences as my mother. Believe it or not, there are many things that parents do, with great intentions, that enable and sometimes trigger their child to continue using. It is very hard to take a step back from the situation when you are so deeply invested in the drug user, but more often than not, this is the best thing a parent can do.

      Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful week!
      Also, please hug your children every chance you get! No matter how many times they roll their eyes. 🙂

      ANA

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