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The festive holiday season is right around the corner, and it offers a chance to spend some meaningful time with our loved ones. But, holidays can present a stressful time leading many to anxiety and depression. It can be even harder if someone you love is in addiction recovery, especially if it’s your parent. Relationships are often fractured and broken with addiction, but the spirit of the season presents a good time to try to get things back on track.  

Try to remember that your parent isn’t alone, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed or stigmatized by his or her disease. The United States is in the midst of a national drug crisis that’s affecting the lives of millions and costing the economy billions of dollars annually. The increases in addiction among the senior population are significant, especially in prescription medication. One study predicts that the number of adults aged 50 or older with substance use disorders will increase from an average of 2.8 million (annual average) in 2002-2006 to 5.7 million in 2020.

During the holidays, consider some of these ideas for reconciliation.

If your parent isn’t in therapy as part of the recovery process, it would be a good thing to discuss it together. If he or she is in therapy, you should consider joining in on some of the sessions. Therapy, directed by a skilled counselor, can work wonders in repairing a damaged relationship by honing in on some of the issues that keep us distant from our loved ones, such as any past trauma. Therapy can help us formulate better communication skills, increase self-awareness, and overcome stigma and shame. Therapy can also aid in diagnosing any underlying conditions that may have led to the addiction, such as depression or an anxiety disorder.

Rebuilding Trust
One of addiction’s ugly side effects is compulsive lying. Some addicts may even steal from you in the depths of their addiction. These behaviors lead to a great deal of stress in a relationship and may even have led to what feels like a permanent breakdown. Carole Bennett, MA, author and substance abuse counselor, created a unique acronym for what addicts and loved ones should begin to feel during the recovery process:

Credibility = trustworthy 
Accountability = answerable for
Responsibility = fulfilled obligation
Dependability = reliable

“Through the addiction process, an enormous amount of trust is broken. The collective C.A.R.D. acronym means trust, and when the credibility, accountability, responsibility and dependability become everyday occurrences, then trust can start to be restored,” she said.

Rediscover your passions
Chances are, you and your loved one shared a lot of happiness together before addiction. Reconnect with some of the activities you did together that brought joy.

Support and more support
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, it’s important to tell loved ones struggling with addiction “that you admire their courage for tackling this medical problem directly through treatment and that as long as they stick with the treatment plan, you will offer encouragement and support.” You should lead by example. Helping parents understand your commitment to their recovery will also help them be more committed to recovery on their own.

Set realistic expectations
It’s important to realize that relationships may not return to the way they were before addiction, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Neither you nor your parent can go back and change things. The focus now is on moving forward and on finding new ways to communicate with one another that support a healthy and happy future. Remember, these things take time; welcome any progress no matter how great or small.

It’s important to remember that your parent may seem lost to you and may feel like someone you don’t know or recognize while in addiction. But he or she is still there and is still your parent. I’m sure there was a time or two in your childhood when your parent wanted to throw in the towel and give up, but didn’t. You shouldn’t either.

Caleb Anderson is in recovery from an opiate addiction. He hopes sharing his experiences will help others.  He co-created RecoveryHope to help people with substance abuse disorders and their families.  He resides in Springfield, Illinois.