Addiction and Recovery at Christmas – 4 Family Stories

For millions of families across the UK, addiction is the elephant in the room. At Christmas time, the struggles they’re having all year round can come into sharp focus. The expectations around Christmas can leave everyone feeling pressure to have a great time – but somehow things often go wrong.

If a member of your family is affected by addiction, or you’re suffering from an addiction yourself, then some of the following family stories may be helpful. Recovery from addiction is possible. If you want to change your life for the better, please get in touch with Addiction Helper. We will carry out a free assessment and advise you on the best inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment.

Sarah’s Family – Alcohol Addiction and Arguments at Christmas

“I used to absolutely dread the Christmas holidays. Spending all that time with relatives, pretending my life was going well. My sisters always seemed to be doing so much more in their lives than me – going on holidays, having kids, earning good money. I felt left behind. My life didn’t match up to theirs. I was so angry, so much of the time.

“Alcohol was my way of coping, covering up my feelings. It was my way of getting through family events. All my family liked a drink over Christmas. My brother, Lee, was a bigger drinker than me. I liked having him around because it made my drinking seem normal. For many years, he was my excuse to carry on drinking. I told myself that if I ever got as bad as Lee, I’d give up alcohol straight away.

“But every Christmas, I was the one who ended up picking a fight, not Lee. He never argued like I did. He just fell asleep. When I got drunk, I couldn’t stop myself saying things – really awful things – to my mum and my sisters. I said a lot of things I didn’t mean.

“That’s one of the things I really love about my life in recovery from alcohol addiction. I get the chance to stop and think now before saying things I’ll regret. I never wake up in the morning with that horrible feeling in my stomach – trying to piece together what I’ve said and done the day before. I can spend time with my family at Christmas without starting a fight.

“I also know when it a good time to leave! It’s fine to be around other people drinking – it really is. It doesn’t make me want to have a drink myself, nothing like that. But there comes a time when I just want to be back at home, on the sofa with a cup of coffee, reading a book or watching TV. It’s nice to chill at Christmas, doing not very much at all.”

Jay’s Family – Shopping Addiction at Christmas

“It was like this totally mad competition I played with myself every year – Christmas Eve, rushing around department stores on Oxford Street, trying to outdo the year before. I’d spend money I didn’t have on gifts I thought would impress my family. Expensive perfume for my Mum, the latest gadgets for my niece and nephews, that sort of thing. I put it all on credit cards without a single thought for how I would pay it all back.

“The thing was, I didn’t really know my family back then. And they didn’t really know me. All that spending – the drugs and alcohol too – it was just a front. I wasn’t really there at Christmas, or any other time of the year either.

“Since getting treatment for my addictions, things have changed so much. I’m clearer on what’s actually important today. I don’t feel that mad desperation to impress people. What was that all about anyway? My family were never that bothered about the gifts. Well, maybe the kids were! But not my parents or my sister. They didn’t need all that show I put on. They were happy to see me. I still find that hard to believe actually – the love they have for me.”

Mel’s Family – Not Noticing My Dad’s Drinking

“There was this unspoken rule in our family. You weren’t supposed to mention my Dad’s drinking. When he started drinking, what he was drinking, how much he was drinking – you weren’t supposed to talk about it. That was how it was growing up. We all played the game of not noticing. Especially at Christmas because it had to be a nice day. Mum would tell us to put on some nice clothes and remind us to ‘be good for your Dad’. We really did believe that we could influence his mood.

“My Dad was a big character and he could be a lot of fun. We’d go to the pub in the village with him as kids. There was a games room out the back with a couple of pool tables. We’d mess around in there and through in the bar, we could always hear Dad’s voice, the loudest of all. People loved to listen to his stories, laugh at his jokes. He was always generous with buying drinks for people. And he gave us coins to play pool all afternoon. I really looked up to him – the way people shook his hand and seemed so pleased to see him. It made me feel proud of the man he could be on good days. The ‘life and soul’ Dad. The man in the middle of everything going on.

“It made me so angry, years later, when those same people from the pub would look the other way. When Dad’s drinking got really bad, they all pretended not to notice too. It was hurtful in ways I couldn’t understand at the time.

“He never managed to stop drinking, my Dad. But I did. I got the help I needed when I was only 21. Nothing really bad happened to me because of alcohol – I just saw how it was going and I didn’t like what I saw. That’s the thing I’d say about getting into alcohol recovery, you don’t have to wait until you lose everything. You can get help to stop drinking before your life is a total mess.”

Mark’s Family – Cocaine at Christmas Lunch

“The worst thing about Christmas used to be trying to eat a roast dinner with my family. After taking cocaine, the last thing I wanted to do was eat a massive meal. There’d be all this food on the plate in front of me – turkey, potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, gravy. It was torture.

“I remember thinking no-one knew. In the end, I was using cocaine every day. I’d always take it on Christmas morning too, after being up all night with friends. I thought I was so good at hiding it from my family. But in rehab I found out they all knew – of course, they knew. I could hardly make eye contact with them. I kept getting up to pour another drink or go to the loo. I could not sit still.

“It sounds such a simple thing but that’s one of the best things about recovery. I love my food today. I really enjoy sitting down to eat a decent plate of food. My Mum doesn’t make a big fuss or anything – but I know how happy it’s made her see her son eat again. I’m back to how I was as a teenager – eating her out of house and home!”

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