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Form healthy connections with people while in recovery.
December 14, 2016

THE TRUE GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK: Turn That Sense of Charity into a Sense of Connection

Form healthy connections with people while in recovery.During the holidays, most people think about giving to charities as well as to loved ones. Since the best holiday charities help people help themselves, you may be able to cover both categories at once if you’re close to someone who struggles with addiction. Let them know it’s okay to get help and that you’ll support them throughout recovery.

This Isn’t the Time to Be Tough

Although the claim that suicides increase during December is greatly exaggerated, this is still a time of particular stress. Gift giving means more debt. Regular parties mean regular temptations to overindulge. Emphases on “celebrating” and “counting your blessings” have the opposite effect on many, pressuring people to hide their struggles rather than be dubbed a Scrooge or wet blanket.

Most people with addiction are already hampered by feelings that they should be tough enough to “handle it” and that asking for help—especially professional help—is a sign of weakness. They don’t need the additional pressure of assumptions about how things are “supposed” to be.

And It Isn’t the Time to Be Quiet

Some families actually needle certain members “good-naturedly” about “always getting drunk.” Many others “generously” pour on the wine until even those who rarely touch alcohol can’t drive home. If either of these “traditions” is in your family, your best holiday charitable giving this year might be inviting the addict and your sympathetic relatives to an alternate, alcohol-free celebration.

The passive mirror twin of the family that actively feeds the problem is the family that willfully turns a blind eye, because no one wants to be a “troublemaker” or “party pooper.” That approach is equally guilty of perpetuating addiction, sending the addict silent messages that no one cares about, or wants to be bothered with, his or her troubles.

Meanwhile, annual statistics for both prescription drug overdoses and drug overdose deaths have soared into the tens of thousands. We can’t be quiet anymore.

It’s Time to Be Supportive

If you suspect that a friend or family member has addiction issues, start by encouraging them to talk about their problems in general. You may nip serious trouble in the bud by listening sympathetically and then suggesting where they might reach out for information or make a call to a treatment center. (Remember, though, that careful listening and empathy come first.)

If the person with addiction is stuck in the denial phase, and especially if you can enlist the help of other relatives and friends, consult an intervention service for advice on gently turning up the pressure. Beware: some interventions do more harm than good. Be sure to get advice from established professionals who will take time to thoroughly understand your family’s situation.

And if you’re on the support network for someone who’s already in recovery, do everything you can to keep that network strong throughout the holiday season. Travel, other holiday responsibilities, and the distraction of hustle and bustle can blur anyone’s connections with regular contacts, so compare schedules early on to ensure someone will always be available in case of emergency. Be extra diligent in encouraging your recovering addict to keep checking in with friends and attending support group meetings. Stay active in your own family-therapy and support programs.

It’s Time to Be Considerate

And, of course, never serve alcohol to a problem drinker. More than that, don’t even invite them to a party where alcohol will be served, or even have a drink yourself in front of them. Follow the ancient wisdom of being willing to forego some of your own enjoyments for the sake of those who would hurt themselves by following your example. A gift involving sacrifice is the most loving gift of all.

So this holiday season, as you’re thinking about charitable options for giving, think about what you can give to help someone get or stay free from the horrors of addiction. You may be instrumental in helping them achieve a long, healthy, and happy life.

That’s a gift that really keeps on giving.

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