Thursday, December 16, 2010


The holiday season is upon us in full force, and if we believe the media good-times advertising blitz, they'll be full of unlimited joy and good tidings. (I was never sure what tidings are. If anyone knows, let me know!)

My clients with addicts in their family often dread the holidays with the constant worry of the addict spoiling their good times with their unpredictable behavior.

Carole Bennett's post on The Partnership at Drug Free.Org's blog, INTERVENE, focuses on the importance of setting firm and "respectful" boundaries. Her guidelines for boundaries hold true 365 days a year, but establishing them during the holiday season will lower the likelihood of your holiday being disappointing.

Her suggestion about looking at the larger picture, that there are many other occasions down the road to celebrate, reflects an aspect of addiction and recovery that my clients often have a hard time grasping: addiction and recovery are a process that unfolds over time, with progress and relapse, ebbs and flows.

Managing your expectations is another important concept. Having a realistic and flexible sense of what to expect can make adjusting to the normal slips and slides of life in recovery easier.

Getting better at pacing ourselves with the expected ups and downs so we don’t lose sight of the larger picture of our lives is the idea. It’s easier said than done, for sure, but once we get the hang of it, we don’t feel as overwhelmed all the time, leaving more energy to enjoy ourselves.



  1. I think "managing realistic expectations" of our addicted love one is a key concept that few focus on.

    Countless special events and/or holidays came and went with my family "expecting" a different reaction from our addicted child -- since it was a "special" day. How sad that we were never told "not" to have "any" expectations from our addicted child.

    I believe the counseling professions does a poor job of telling us "the truth." Yes, I understand that some of us aren't ready for "the truth" but life goes on regardless if we are ready or not; we need to know the realistic "expectations" of addiction.

  2. Dad Truth--
    I appreciate your comments. I've gotten the same feedback from some my clients about professionals not preparing them for some of the realities of addiction.

    People often ask me "what's your cure rate" in terms of my "success" with my clients. It's a fair question to ask, but reflects lack of understanding the nature of relapse and recovery.

    Learning about the "truth" is one thing: it's an important early step but the hard work for families is to work a program to accept the truth which will then help manage expectations better.

    Take care--

  3. Barry,

    Well said.

    Thank you for your response.