Author: Teresa Greenhill

The holidays can be especially difficult for seniors in recovery. You might be used to being the matriarch at holiday gatherings. The one who hosted the big dinners, the one who graciously wrote all the cards, wrapped the gifts, and gave the toast. But addiction may have changed that.

If you’re a senior in addiction recovery, the winter holidays may have taken on a different tone and have become more of a time to seek forgiveness and repair family rifts.

If you’re not sure where to begin and how to move forward with your family, here are some tips for those who wish make amends and those who need to accept them.

Holiday temptations

Recovery survivors need to prioritize their sobriety around the holidays. Short daylight hours combined with possible isolation can be triggers for relapse. Consider these tips to combat that:

  • Ask family members to listen to your story. Recovery survivors need to tell the story of how they became addicted and how they recovered. Your family will, hopefully, be more understanding and compassionate if they hear from you what your triggers were and are.
  • Make sure you are keeping medical appointments. Addiction is not only a psychological disease, but t may have left behind many health issues that need consistent attention. For instance, many people in recovery end up in some stage of liver disease. Your health is your number one priority, so don’t skip or defer appointments around the holidays.
  • Learn to use sober apps. There are a variety of apps that support your recovery by updating you on how many days you’ve been sober, how much money you’re saving by not drinking, etc.
    Ask friends and family for extra quality time. Loneliness is one of the worst symptoms of addiction, even in recovery.
  • Ask friends and family to attend open AA or NA meetings with you.

Supporting your relative in recovery

Perhaps you’re on the other side of the table this holiday season. Perhaps you’re dealing with a senior friend or relative who is in recovery. In that event, forgiving is the first step to mending fences with someone who might be very close to you, maybe even a parent.

To a great extent, forgiveness is an act of the will. So, if you need a motive, consider this: Forgiveness is one of the only true paths to happiness. Forgiveness allows you to quit brooding about the time your mother was drunk and forgot to take you to your dentist appointment. Forgiveness allows you to concentrate on all the good things you’ve built into your life, despite any less-than-ideal parenting you received. Forgiveness makes you, once and for all time, a better person.

If your friend or relative’s addiction went so far as to result in violence, you should carefully consider hiring a therapist to help the two of you repair your relationship. Most psychologists recommend reconciliation if the bad behavior is in the past. If a parent is still abusing you, you are under no obligation to forgive–or even spend time with that person.

Specify amends

Recovery survivors need to apologize to the people whom they’ve wronged. Other amends may be in order, as well.

If, for instance, your mother stole your television and jewelry while she was using, it’s reasonable to demand that she repay the value of those items as part of her amends. Once your parent has made amends, it’s incumbent on you to do your part and offer true forgiveness.

In closing

The holidays are a tough time for a lot of people. The pressure to break the bank on gifts hits some people hard while others struggle with loneliness and rejection by their families. Remember that reaching out to someone you’ve hurt is hard, but learning to ask for forgiveness and in turn them accepting and allowing you both to move forward may be the best gift you give one another this season.