Addiction and recovery
By Bob Gaydos
It’s time for my annual here-come-the-holidays-so-let’s-be-smart-while-we-enjoy-ourselves column for addicts and their friends and families.
Over the years of writing this column I’ve learned that being brief is important because there’s simply too much for people to do at this time of year to sit and read an article about healthy behavior. Also, that non-addicts as well as addicts can benefit from knowing some basic rules for surviving holiday festivities. If much of what follows sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve said it before and, I think, bears repeating.
This is a treacherous time of year for people in early recovery from addiction. People who have found their way to recovery, be it via a 12-step program or otherwise, have been given suggestions on how to survive the season of temptation without relapse. If they use these tools, with practice, they can even enjoy the season.
But I’m also talking here to you hosts, family members, well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and do the right thing, but aren’t sure what that is. And yes, to those who don’t understand the concept of addiction but can still avoid harming a relationship by following a few basic suggestions. So, first, some holiday coping tools for the non-addicted:
- “No thank you” is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. “One drink won’t hurt you” is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, “A few butter cookies won’t hurt. C’mon, it’s Christmas.” Or, “Get the dress. Put it on your credit card. You’ll feel better.” Not really.
- By the way, “No thank you” is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won’t go into hock for an expensive New Year’s Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.
- If you’re hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. Don’t make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing, low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don’t point out that they’re there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You’ll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.
- If you’re honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you’re just curious, keep it to yourself.
- Honoring a guest’s wishes is a sign of respect. Anticipating them in advance is even better. Encouraging someone to eat, drink or spend money when they don’t want to is, at the very least, not gracious. Pressuring someone to partake of something when you know he or she is trying hard to avoid it is a good way to lose a friend.
- Addictions are not trivial matters. I repeat, “No, thank you,” is a perfectly good answer. Members of AA, OA and DA will be especially appreciative if you remember that.
For recovering addicts, the tools should be familiar, but always bear repeating:
- Bring a recovery friend to a party.
- Have phone numbers and your own transportation available if you want to leave an uncomfortable situation.
- If you’re uncomfortable about attending a party because of who will be there, be it family or friends who are not supportive, don’t go. Politely decline.
- Keep track of your drink. If you’re not sure, get a new one.
- Deal in cash; forget about credit cards.
- Don’t feel obliged to try every dish on the table.
- And, again, “No, thank you,” is a complete sentence. Don’t worry about hurting your host’s feelings at the expense of your recovery. There’s always next year.
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For more information:
Debtors Anonymous: www.debtorsanonymous.org
Alcoholics Anonymous: www.aa.org
Overeaters Anonymous: www.oa.org