A Personal Note – You, Your Addicted Child, and the Holidays


I hope everyone has had a wonderful Holiday Season so far. This week, on a personal note, I want to talk about what the holidays can be like with your grown addicted child. I hope that if you’re reading this and you have a grown kid that struggles with an addiction, things haven’t gotten too crazy for you.

That’s the thing about this time of year, isn’t it? You see family members that you haven’t spent time with for a good while. You get to enjoy being close to friends and family, but you also find that you can be really put on the spot when it comes to your kid and his or her behavior.

For us, things tend to get pretty tense around this time of year. My grown addicted daughter, no matter what stage of the game she’s in, is still addicted. She might be acting better and doing better at being involved with the things we do, but she and her husband were still high when they came to the festivities.

Let me tell you, this sucks. It’s like, for my part, I really just wish that she would get it together and stop this crap. Or at least, not be high for just a little while. But, I’m not complaining. I mean, she’s part of our lives, and she’s trying to be an active participant, even if it can sometimes be pretty difficult.

So where do the problems come in?

Your Dynamic and the Introduction of Others (Who Aren’t Usually Around)

For myself, my addicted daughter, my husband and other daughters, the dynamic is usually pretty solid. Yes, we get frustrated. Yes, we struggle with irritating situations and differing opinions. Yes, we have a hard time communicating sometimes, but we know where things stand. Let me tell you, if you’ve ever had to deal with a grown child’s addiction, you know the comfort that you can find in something as basic as a dynamic that is understood.

Anyway, for us, it’s golden. So, when others, like my parents and sister, come into the picture and don’t really understand what things are, things can get kind of messed up. It’s not that they don’t love my oldest, and it’s not that they want to go off on her for her choices, it’s more the fact that they are always looking for signs of good behavior.

It’s also that my daughter tries really hard with them, where she might not do so with me as much. I don’t know about you, but when things like this happen, you’re probably pretty on edge, so the Holiday season becomes as much about stressing over what’s happening as it is about enjoying the time and getting to see the rest of your loved ones.

In our case, the holidays get tough because my oldest really turns on the charm. The people who she really cares about, like my parents, she tries the hardest to be “healthy.” Now, I should say that my parents are pretty great about the whole situation. They had an incredibly large role in much of her upbringing, and her substance abuse issues have really hit them hard. Now, though, they are pretty much on the same page as we are. They agree that as long as she’s trying, that which we all don’t see should stay where we don’t see it.

My sister, on the other hand, is different. She takes my daughter’s habits as a personal affront. This year, my oldest tried really hard to mend those bridges, and it seems to be helping.

What many people don’t understand is that your addicted grown child might feel pretty defensive. If they have had any harsh words with any of your loved ones, they might not know how to repair things, and that can create tension. In my daughter and sister’s case, they had some words on Facebook, and it escalated to almost two years of not talking.

For us, things are smoothing out, and for that, I’m really grateful. However, we spent a tough couple of years with strong opinions, hurt feelings, tension, and tears. Lucky for me, I have a family that loves to tough it out. We’re all stubborn and unwilling to walk away.

Lies, Lies, Lies

One thing that my husband and I have always really struggled with was the fact that my oldest daughter and her husband would lie – about everything – to the people who really care the most about them. They would tell my parents that they were working here and doing this and that. It’s something that lots of people who struggle with addictions do. We know this, but if you’re where we are, you sit there and watch your kid blow smoke up your loved ones… derrieres and you’re thinking, “You’re such a liar.”

Fortunately, we’re past all these thoughts. We know that our daughter and son-in-law have made some pretty strong improvements. This year, we also know that they are trying – if not succeeding – to improve their lives, and that’s important.

So, when they show up high but try to behave, we let it go. I still heard the lies, and I got really tired of one of our parents or the other tell us of the plans that our grown daughter and her husband have that we had no idea of, but this year, it is what it is.

One of the things that have really helped us as a family is to acknowledge that she does what she does. It’s her life, and we have stepped back from any responsibility for what they say and do.

When One Family Member or Another Gets Sneaky

Now, here’s a personal note that hopefully you’ll think is funny. My mother in law, who I love, but – like most mother in laws – drives me crazy. We’ve had our fair share of issues in the past, but we’ve moved beyond. Sort of.

This year, though, I caught her being kind of sneaky. Let me start by saying that my oldest daughter was absolutely devastated by the gift that she received from my MIL, but that’s another story because I didn’t see my oldest offering anything. Anyway, my MIL has made it very clear that she feels that my oldest should apologize to her. Now, the rest of us all know that this is simply ridiculous. They have never been close. My husband and I got married when my oldest was 8, and as the step-grandmother, she tried, but never really hit the mark with the girl. That’s okay, nobody’s hurt, but the fact of the matter is that my daughter never did anything to my mother-in-law that would require apologizing for.

However, my MIL and I have had fights about how my daughter’s situation should be dealt with. Suffice it to say, I’ve won, and she has been forced to accept and respect our decisions. This year, she’s trying a different tact. I saw her talking to my daughter – which is fine – about what my oldest does for a living if she’d like to move up in the industry, etc.

Then, like many people who want to start drama and aren’t succeeding, she comes to me and tells me that she feels like my oldest deserves a chance because she’s trying so hard, and blah blah. Then, she tells me that she’s really proud of how good my oldest is doing. All good things, right? I thought so too until she starts searching for things my daughter told her that I might contradict. I knew what she was up to, and I didn’t give anything away, but you know, there’s always someone.

My Daughter Didn’t Go to Rehab, But What Would It Be Like for Someone Who Did?

So, my daughter hasn’t chosen to go to rehab yet. I pray every day that she will, but it’s times like these that I wonder what it must be like for someone who has just gotten out of rehab. How difficult must it be for someone who is working a very private recovery journey to deal with all the questions and nosey family members who are just waiting for them to slip up?

Personally, while I know that our family has gotten stronger and more resilient, and we have kind of made peace with our situation, I know that my grown addicted daughter is not anywhere near being recovered from her addiction.

I know that these days, it’s more a matter of maintaining a balance than seeing truly positive progress. I am hopeful, though, that one day, our Holidays will be filled with stories of recovery success, and not just lies about some of the things she’s doing.

No matter whether your grown addicted child is in recovery, or if he or she is doing like my oldest and performing a balancing act, I hope that you and yours are getting stronger and at least able to have a relationship with your grown addicted child. I hope that you and yours have been able to enjoy the Season and that your New Year brings joy, peace, happiness, and most of all – recovery.