Surviving and Thriving During the Holidays With a Child's Addiction

    I have to admit that my heart is really not into the holidays this year. It all just seems like so much effort and so much work when there is such an important part of my life that is not in order. The addition that plagues our daughter’s life is in full swing — how can I enjoy myself, have fun or dare to think of anything other than her, when her life is so out of control right now?

    I will tell you how. I have three other children, a wonderful husband, an elderly mother, siblings, friends and, last but certainly not least, myself to consider. I have a big family for whom life goes on. They deserve to have their full share of their mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend. And I deserve to savor every moment with those I love.

    I am working at making the holidays manageable for myself this year. My first order of action is to enter into the season with no expectations. In Al-Anon they have a saying: “Expectations are only premeditated resentments.” I usually set the bar so high for myself and others that anything short of perfection is, to me, considered failure.

    This year, I am only doing the parts I enjoy. I am keeping it simple. I am only attending functions that I want to attend. I am only decorating as much or as little as I feel like. As for the actual holiday? I am actively choosing to let it play out as it will, and I will not try to orchestrate the kind of day that I can imagine. There is not one “right” way to make the holiday special.

    Next, I am letting everyone be responsible for their own relationships. Our daughter is invited and welcome to be home for our holidays along with everyone else. If someone chooses not to come because she is there, that is their business. We will miss them, but I refuse to enter those kinds of exchanges. Everyone is welcome to come. It’s their choice if they want to take us up on the offer or not. I also choose to make lots of room for everyone’s choices and not be offended or resentful. I acknowledge that if someone has a hard time being around our daughter, then it is their right to choose not to. We can see each other another time. I have lots of room in my heart for everyone to take care of themselves.

    We have had holidays in the past where our daughter was not able to be home for various reasons. Those holidays were particularly difficult. During those times I put her into God’s hands for safekeeping. I made a point of getting away by myself for a short time to pray for her, to light a candle, to write down happy memories of times with her. Indulging in those memories was a gift that I gave to myself.

    A big issue for me has been the guilt I feel as I move on without my daughter. How do you have fun or enjoy anything when someone you love is lost in their disease? Figuratively speaking, I keep the porch light on. I let her know we love her, and that we are here if and when she wants to seek help. We will do what we can, but the reality is that she has to make her journey in her own time and I have to make mine in my own time. I choose now.

    A wise friend once told me that my husband and my other kids deserve to have good memories with their wife and mom. Good holidays, good fun times. The only way that I can make that happen is by releasing myself from my self-imposed obligations to save my daughter from addiction. By stepping aside and allowing her to make her own decisions about the kind of life she wants to live. By letting my life continue despite what she may be doing at any given moment. My happiness cannot be dependent on how well my daughter is doing or not doing.

    Today, I choose to keep it simple. I choose to love my daughter as much as she will allow me to. I choose to savor special moments with friends and loved ones while I can. I choose to enter into this season with no expectations for myself or anyone else. I choose to accept each day as it comes with the good and the challenging and see what I can learn from both. I choose to keep my heart open.

    By Annette, Parent
    December 2009

    Last Updated

    June 2020