Are you dreading Thanksgiving & Christmas?
When you’re already struggling because of your child’s substance use, the holidays can be overwhelming and painful.
You can’t control what your child does, but you can be intentional with how you respond to what happens, plan ahead to meet your emotional needs, and set the tone for your holidays.
Step 1 – Decide Ahead of Time
Take all the questions and concerns you’re ruminating about and use them to your advantage.
What are you anticipating happening?
What goes wrong every year or has been an issue lately?
Decide right now how you’re going to respond to those situations and write it down. Don’t wait until emotions are high. When emotions are high, decisions making skills are low. That’s when you get what you wrote down, read it, and follow your instructions so you don’t have to think about it.
When I was trying to change how I responded to situations I reframed every situation that I didn’t like how I responded to. I wrote down what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what I could do differently next time. The focus was only on me because that’s the only thing I can control.
I did that over and over until the responses I wanted to be intentional about became second nature. That helped me be proud of my responses instead of regretting my reactions.
The other thing I want you to decide ahead of time is how you will create your own comfort and even joy if things don’t go as planned or if you won’t get to see your child and you want to.
This part was crucial to me having enjoyment during the holidays because my daughter didn’t always show up and if she did show up, she usually only stayed 30 minutes to an hour.
I always had something else to look forward to that day even if it was something small like cocooning in a fuzzy blanket while reading a new book or watching a movie, running in a holiday 5k, planning a household or craft project, sometimes I invited friends over, or I accepted an invitation to someone else’s house.
Planning ahead is key because it’s nearly impossible to come up with satisfying ideas when you’re sitting alone in despair on Christmas day. There’s peace of mind in knowing you’ve planned ahead and that you have a backup plan to help you get through the day.
One of my favorite holiday memories was the year no one showed up. Yes, you read that right. I cooked a big meal, and no one showed up.
At first I was angry, then sad, and then I got the idea to take the food to my daughter and the friends she lived with. I showed up at their door with love in my heart and a big box of food and drinks. They were so excited. Her roommates’ families didn’t do things like that for them and they were so appreciative. They still talked about it and thanked me a year later.
I was only there for 30 minutes. It looked nothing like the Christmas I had planned. Yet it was enough. I did the best I could with what I had to work with, and I met my daughter where she was at in her life.
Step 2 – Acceptance
Acceptance is not approval.
It’s simply receiving the situation as it is, rather than wasting energy resisting it or fighting it.
When you accept it, you are no longer telling yourself it should not be happening.
You accept that this is reality, and you start to figure out how to work with the situation.
When you’re struggling with your child’s substance use, you’re in a marathon, not a sprint.
Acceptance will help you conserve your precious energy so you can go the distance.
Distance runners are very intentional with their pace, stride, and arm movements so they don’t waste energy.
Give yourself the gift of allowing your child to be who they are and meet them where they’re at instead of using all your energy to resist them.
When I brought my daughter and her friends Christmas dinner one of the reasons I felt so good about it was because I accepted my reality that day.
My joy came from being in the present moment with my experiences instead of being trapped in a painful story about not having a Hallmark movie Christmas.
Step 3 Keep it Clean
Clean pain means that you don’t add to your pain or torture yourself with it.
That includes not making someone’s behavior mean anything painful about you.
It hurts to see your child struggling with substances.
This is not what you thought your parenting experience would be like and this is not what you thought your child’s life would be like.
There’s a lot of pain in the gap between expectations and reality.
That’s enough. Don’t add to it with painful stories and judgments.
Clean pain exists in the present moment where you’re feeling the uncomfortable sensations in your body from the painful emotions, acknowledging them, and breathing through them.
The goal of this blog post isn’t to eliminate pain. That’s not realistic.
The goal is to help you not add suffering to your pain and to create conditions that allow you some peace of mind and maybe even some joy.
If you want more support listen to the Living With Your Child’s Addiction podcast. This link is to episode #64 The Difference Between Worry, Stress, Anxiety, and Overwhelm, and How To Regulate Them.