Christmas is “probably the worst time of year” for people with an addict in their life, therapist and author Candace Plattor says.
“Loved ones have a recollection of what the addict was like before the addiction took hold,” she says. “What they want more than anything is to have them (the addict) be the way they used to be.”
But hope alone is not enough, says Plattor, author of Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself: The Top 10 Survival Tips for Loving Someone with an Addiction.
Spouses, relatives and friends of addicts have to set boundaries if they want to avoid having their holiday disrupted, she says.
Plattor advises telling the alcoholic or drug addict to arrive at the Christmas dinner, party or family get-together clean - and stay that way.
She suggests that hosts says: “During the few hours that you’re with us, you need to be straight and sober.”
And if the addict refuses, tell him or her not to bother dropping by.
“Addiction is not an excuse for bad behaviour,” Plattor says.
The ultimatum doesn’t have to be angry or confrontational, she says.
Simply state, in a matter-of-fact way, “this is what we require,” Plattor suggests. And if the addict balks, say “we’ll miss you, but don’t come.” And mean it.
This kind of discussion needs to happen well in advance of Christmas dinner or any other holiday-related event, Platter stresses.
People who are in the grips of an addiction need to understand that they cannot expect to be treated they way they were before the drugs or drinking got out of hand, Plattor says.
“They need to earn their way back.”
Plattor has given free workshops in White Rock on dealing with addiction in other people for Sources counseling and addiction services and the City of Surrey.
During 16 years of treating people for substance abuse and compulsive behaviors in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Plattor says, she came to firmly believe that spouses, relatives and friends of addicts are in just as much need of help.
By the time they contact a therapist, she says loved ones have often invested a lot of energy, time and money in a frustrating battle to get the other person to change.
All too often, what they’re doing isn’t helping.
Plattor says breaking the addiction to the addict’s problems requires recognizing that you can’t help another person if he or she isn’t ready to be helped and you are unable to look after your own needs, she says.
For more information about Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself: The Top 10 Survival Tips for Loving Someone with an Addiction visit www.candaceplattor.com