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Have a Family Member with an Addiction? Don’t Isolate Yourself During the Holidays


Don’t Isolate Yourself During the HolidaysLet’s face it. The holidays can be a stressful time for families – especially if you have a loved one with an alcohol or drug addiction.

First, there’s the frenzy in the air and what seems like a million things to do.  Second, our feelings are often magnified around this time. We may feel exhausted, over-committed and extra sensitive. We often expect everything to be perfect, aspiring to some idealized version of how things should be. But the truth is that life, especially with an addicted family member, can be messy and chaotic. This can leave us feeling disappointed, frustrated or wistful.

You may feel alone – like you’re the only family in the whole world dealing with a substance abuse issue. Please know that you are not alone. And, while it may seem impossible to enjoy yourself when a love one’s life is out of control, there are things you can do to make yourself feel better.

This post from The Center for Motivation and Change offers guidance. We hope you enjoy reading it and that it inspires you to find some relief and happiness during this time of year and beyond.


By Cindy Brody, Director of Intensive Services at Center for Motivation & Change

Sometimes you might feel like you’re the only person in the world who loves someone with a substance problem.  The truth is that many millions of people are walking down this challenging and often painful road. As you’re dealing with all of this, you might notice that, on purpose or by accident, you start to pull away from other people and become more and more isolated, which then can make it even harder to decide to reach out.  We encourage you to watch out for this and do what you can to fight against urges to go “underground.”  We are wired to be social creatures, and there is a lot to be gained from spending time with people, including their support!

You may have concerns about privacy, gossip, and the “public” perception of your loved one/yourself/your family if you put yourself out there and socialize more.  While those are reasonable concerns to think about as you pick and choose who you do and don’t want to confide in, please do not underestimate the horrible toll that feeling isolated in a problem can have on you.  Isolation contributes to and can increase depression, anxiety, loneliness, and a whole host of other challenges that will not serve you well as you are dealing with all of this. Taking steps to add more social contact into your life can chip away just a little, or a lot, of the feeling that you are alone at sea.

Even if you don’t feel that isolation is a big part of your stress right now, you might still consider setting some goals around socializing to see if it helps anyway – isolation can creep up on you.  This can be especially true for people who are used to being very busy and having a hard time fitting social time on the calendar, solving all of their problems pretty effectively on their own, not in the habit of asking for help (or maybe even dead-set against it!), and feeling private or ashamed about this particular issue.  Remember this: you are not alone in this problem and fighting against isolation may well help you find solutions to your problems faster.

We encourage you to consider picking one way you can reach out to another person/people this week during the holidays and continue to do so in the coming weeks and months.

Remember that reaching out doesn’t have to mean that you share all your innermost thoughts and feelings with someone. It doesn’t have to be a confessional (though if that helps, then go for it), just a way to re-engage with the world in other than a “stressing out” way. You can get support in all kinds of ways, so think about not only who might be useful to confide in, but also who is good at making you laugh, distracting you, doing something fun with you, and who is good at helping you feel comfortable and relaxed so that you can enjoy the holidays.


The Center for Motivation & Change (CMC) is a unique, NYC-based private group practice of dedicated clinicians and researchers providing non-ideological, evidence-based, effective treatment of addictive disorders and other compulsive behaviors. CMC’s treatment approach is informed by a strong commitment to both the humanity and the science of change, providing a unique, compelling, and inspiring environment in which to begin the process of change. Staffed by a group of experienced psychologists, CMC takes pride in their collective record of clinical research and administrative experience but most of all are driven by an optimism about people’s capacity to change and a commitment to the science of change.

Learn more about Center for Motivation & Change and read about our unique and effective approach to treating addictive disorders, and meet CMC’s directorial staff and clinical staff. To find more resources for families, please see our Parent’s 20 Minute Guide, and our Family Blog.  And to learn more about CRAFT, see our CRAFT Family Services page. Find us on Facebook and Twitter for additional content and the latest updates.

Previous CMC Collaboration Posts:

Help Someone Make a Change

A Note On “Enabling” vs. Positive Reinforcement

Caring for Yourself in Order to Care for Someone Else

The CRAFT Approach: Encouraging Healthy, Constructive, Positive Changes for Your Family

Announcing a New Collaboration: Exploring Alternative Approaches to Dealing with a Loved

4 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Brian
    Brian / June 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Coping with or attempting to manage an addiction is without a doubt a very difficult undertaking. I remember how surprised my friend’s family were when they found out that my friend was addicted. Re-establishing a bond is the only way to bridge the void between understanding and addiction.

  2. Avatar of michele
    michele / May 8, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    This is an email I sent to our local newspaper that ran a 3 part series on heroin abuse in our area:

    A Mothers Anguish

    Approximately 2 years ago, for whatever reason, my daughter tried heroin
    and her as well as our families life fell apart. The following are things I have
    come to know that have left me to write this and let you know from a mothers
    point of view how things really work.

    Of course, my daughter was a bright beautiful loving person, high honors in
    high school, many friends. She graduated with a bright future in store for her.

    She attended a year of community college in hopes of becoming a nurse.

    Life brings changes and she had a beautiful little girl, my granddaughter. In hind sight, I was unaware of what was to come. For some reason that she nor I as her mom will never know she dabbled in heroin. Long story short, she lost
    custody of her child when she was found to have paraphernalia in her possession with my granddaughter in the car. That was the day my life as her mom had completely and utterly been destroyed and will never be the same again. That was
    in February of 2013. I immediately had her placed in a methadone program
    thinking this would be the answer to my devastation. I was wrong. She did amazingly well until this following December when she relapsed. She left our home
    and visits with her child. I never knew how powerful a drug this was and learned
    step by step how life will never ever be the same. I had convinced her to go to
    rehab after overdosing to which she walked away. Things progressed for the
    worse and she stole my credit card and purchased close to 2 thousand dollars in
    gift cards. We as her family were destroyed again in this ongoing hell. I searched
    for her went to police did all I could to find her, to which we did, walking the
    streets in 10 degree weather with no shoes. I was then able to 302 her and she
    was placed in a dual mental drug clinic then sent to rehab. She then came home
    after 21 days and was here for 2 days and went back on the streets. She was
    finally arrested a week later to which I was actually grateful. I spent 2 months of
    no sleep, nights of constant tears. She has created this I know but there are
    other concerns I have as to ways to obtain money for her habit. When she
    stole my credit card I learned that she obtained gift cards. I was infuriated
    to learn that these check cashing stores accept any gift card and will give you
    one half the face value. Now, lets be honest. These places know exactly
    what is going on. I cannot believe they are even allowed to be part of our business community. The police are well aware. These stores actually accept
    stolen property. To me that is a crime. They are profiting off of stolen goods
    in a legal manner. Please, I implore you to look into this and speak with the
    local police. This is morally wrong. Legal, but wrong. To me they are acting
    as the middle man between the user and the dealer. I am trying to see if
    I can file a complaint against United Check cashing, How can the same
    person come into a store approximately 15 times with 100 dollar gift cards,
    be paid half the face value and they claim its not their problem or responsibility.

    Outrageous to say the least.

    I would also like to add that I found my daughters phone, went thru all her
    text messages and found all the dealers. I had contacted them all and I told
    them I would be their worst nightmare. I was told that was dangerous and it made me more determined. I confronted them and used language I cannot
    relay to you. I was not in fear because my anger took over and I don’t regret
    one text or call I made to any dealer. I would be their worst nightmare. I worked
    with the local police and handed over names and addresses of all the dealers
    I was aware of. I had a feeling of satisfaction. I felt I was able to help in some
    small way in this neverending war.

    At the local hospital we have detox for patients who walk in off the streets and are in need of help. I realize some addicts just use this as a revolving door, but those who need the help have a rude awakening. There 6 female
    and 6 male beds for patients who have no insurance. That is the case for most.

    For patients with insurance its not much better. The deductible is usually 2500
    dollars or more with copays daily. Rehabs are a for profit facility and no pay, you
    must leave. Also, when a patient arrives for detox in the emergency room, they
    MUST have drugs in their system or they are told “you are not a candidate”.
    Also, when their are no beds available for detox, they are told to leave, continue
    to use and return daily until a bed is available. This is the standard protocol. People
    wanting help and turned away. They find dirty syringes in the ladies room
    so they can use and be sure they have drugs in their system just to pass phase
    one of what sometimes turns out to be a major let down and they are asked to

    My daughter was recently arrested and placed in prison. I refused to bail her out. It was the first time in months

    that I was able to sleep and not wait for the hospital or coroners office to call me. That is what its like living daily

    with a child on heroin and not knowing where or who they are with. They did this to themselves, but the fact

    of this addiction is that its web is very large and affects all who are in their life. As a mother, I find it inconceivable to be able to go on with life not knowing where your child is or how much danger they are in. We are told that it is their choice and you no longer have control of their actions. That is true and factual, but not to a mother. I cant get to the place where you have to let go. I cant sit back and watch a life be destroyed and not try to help.

    Our family will forever live with the constant nightmare of when or if relapse will happen. This drug is non discriminatory. Rich, poor, young, old, professionals, non professionals. It has no boundaries. You are alone also. Friends shy away…your only support is those who live this life with this horrendous disease.

    I have written this to show the other side of addiction. I will keep on my quest to assist law enforcement and individuals or agencies that will listen and help. I ask that my name not be mentioned. The Citizens Voice had published my daughters arrest with her picture. I understand this is public knowledge, however, the journalist that published this story cannot imagine the destruction he had on our side of this tragedy. It was humiliating yes, but I also have a 16 year old who had to go to school the next day. A teacher entered her class and held up the article and my daughters year book picture and proceeded to humiliate my daughter even more. She was not bullied by her

    classmates, but by her teacher. This is the mentality of how people perceive addiction.

    All in all, I am forever and always changed. I am on a mission, be it small in this unnoticeable war, to help in anyway I can. If I can educated and share my story and help one family, I feel I have succeeded. I implore you to please look into to this deadly disease that affects not only families, but society as a whole. It needs more attention and stricter laws. I need to find someone..anyone to listen. Look into the check cashing companies. Its a travesty that they are allowed to operate legally in a society when their major profit is stolen goods to purchase drugs. How insulting and hideous this entire operation is. I thank the mayor of our city that there are none of these companies in the city limits.

    Thank you for listening and telling my story…my nightmare

  3. Avatar of Mark Neidert
    Mark Neidert / March 24, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    I like your article and understood your intent and believe it is good.

    This statement struck me as odd.
    “We are wired to be social creatures”

    I am wired to be an alcoholic.

    This is really not important. I agree with your article. Real friends and sharing with them can be of tremendous value. Look at what is going on in addiction groups.
    It just struck me as odd that you would say this.

  4. Avatar of Cynthia
    Cynthia / March 1, 2014 at 9:25 am

    The mother’s children are very laid back and, probably, don’t need adderall. She takes their adderall. I’ve watched this mother for several years consuming their prescription and she gets upset when she doesn’t have any and the children’s prescription is not due to be refilled. She even offered it to me once and frequently gave it to her friend before the mother moved from my area. I will need signed statement that I will not be mentioned. Thank you.

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