What should I do about Christmas?

What should I do about Christmas?

Families face it every year.  When they love someone in active addiction, it’s the dilemma that begins haunting them as soon as the first tinsel appears in shop windows.  How do I answer my son’s plea when he says, Mom, can I come home for Christmas?  Or, what do I say to my daughter when she wants to be with her grandparents for the holiday?

 The situation is worse when healthy members of the family beg you not to let the sick “child” come home.  He’ll just ruin our holiday. She’ll make grandma cry.

In my family it wasn’t about the holidays. It was about a summer vacation.

Each year we rent a beach house at a Delaware resort where we welcome family and close friends.  When Jacob relocated to a halfway house in Florida to continue his recovery, he asked if he could fly home to join us.  He’d only been there eight months.  His recovery was fragile, but I knew he was trying.

Meanwhile, I’d been in Al-Anon for eight months.  My recovery was fragile, too.  But some of Al-Anon’s teachings had taken hold.

When Jacob phoned, I took a deep breath.  Then I called up the helpful Al-Anon phrases I knew:  Think before you speak.  Keep it simple.  And it’s okay to set boundaries.  

“Jacob, you know I love you,” I began.  “And yes, we’d love to have you with us.  But only if you are clean and healthy.  If you are using – and hear me carefully – if you are using, please do not come.”

 Silence on the other end.  Then, my son said, “Mom, you will have your son at the beach.”

Jacob did come to the beach that summer.  And he kept his promise.

While it wasn’t the end of his run with addiction, that week shimmers in our memories as bright as any holiday light.




5 Replies to “What should I do about Christmas?”

  1. What an inspiring story, Lisa. Thanks for illustrating the gifts of boundaries, especially this time of year!

  2. Lisa, I vividly remember reading about that beach summer in your book. As you know, that’s where we spent the month of August for many summers. What a joy for you that during your week with Jacob, you were able to experience joy, pride and happiness.
    I’m so happy for those wonderful memories you hold so dear!
    Love, Linny

    1. Linny, I know. So many happy memories of those summers. And that one week with Jacob years ago was very very special.
      It’s hard to find calm, happy times when a child is still in active addiction.
      Boundaries are so important.
      Thanks for reading Linny!