| Addiction | Family Support |
This week, a week out from Christmas, someone who is dear to me entered treatment, leaving a family behind to celebrate Christmas and usher in the New Year without him.
When people point out the bravery of doing what would feel unconscionable for most at this time of year, my sense is that this man would not identify what he is doing as bravery at all, more likely, sheer desperation. Desperation can be the uncomfortable and unwelcome gift that allows us to become willing to do whatever it takes, regardless of what time of year it is and who we will have to disappoint, in order to take those first vital steps into recovery.
To some extent it is a myth that heading into treatment at this time of year is the hardest thing to do. Yes, the initial decision is hard, and there is no denying that having to make the decision can feel shattering at any time of year, let alone at Christmas, but once the decision is made, everything starts getting easier.
Alcoholic and chemically dependent people who are active in their addictions and not held within the safety and support of treatment centers through the holiday season, face weeks of fuel on the addiction fire at this time of year. Family and society are a flurry of anxiety and emotionality that addictive people are super sensitive to and wipe themselves out over. Once in treatment, the rollercoaster of benders, hangovers, relationship dramas, come-downs and general carnage begins to come to an end, and people find themselves in a sane and stable environment with all the support they need to make a fresh start in the new year.
Alcoholics and addicts are often misunderstood as selfish, and their substance-fuelled behaviour certainly looks that way, but actually, they often tend towards being preoccupied with the needs and feelings of others, at the expense of their own. This makes them over-responsible for others and under-responsible for self. They face a conundrum in going away to treatment mostly due to the tyranny of ideas around how things ‘should’ be at Christmas, and what they ‘should’ do. The idea of being there for one’s family at Christmas is a lovely one, if it’s actually do-able. Otherwise it’s just a seductive fantasy full of empty promise that results in being physically present, but absent in every other way. In reality, spending Christmas in the throes of intoxication, or trying to recover from being heavily intoxicated, doesn’t qualify as ‘being there’.
Parents of young children face the greatest quandary in seeking treatment at this time of year, but anyone who has ever spent a Christmas in the same house, or even in the general vicinity, of an alcoholic or addict who really should have been in treatment, knows that rehab could be considered to be the ultimate gift for everyone involved. Surely there is no greater gift to one’s family than becoming willing to get the help required to arrest a health condition that is notorious for its power to tear families apart.
Being there for others involves being there for self first, so these holidays Byron Private wishes all families facing a Christmas marred by alcoholism and addiction, the support and help they deserve, and the willingness to get it.
Anna Lloyd is a Family Therapist at Byron Private and a Clinical Psychotherapist in Private Practice in Sydney’s Inner West, working with individuals, couples, families and groups. Trained in Gestalt Psychotherapy, Bowen Family Systems Theory and Systemic Family Constellation work, Anna is passionate about family systems and the power of systemic approaches to recovery and wellness.
Specialising in Addiction Recovery/Addictive Family Systems, Anna brings 15 years of experience living and practicing the work. She is strongly committed to trauma-informed therapeutic approaches, and values warm, holistic, body-inclusive, life-affirming therapy grounded in mindfulness, practical wisdom, and the science of relationship systems and the brain.
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