The holidays are a difficult time for people in recovery. People suffering from addiction and alcoholism are subjected to family triggers during certain times of the year that can sometimes result in relapse. One of the most common and powerful triggers for alcoholics and addicts is their family. Unfortunately, an alcoholic’s family system is more likely to encourage relapse rather than sobriety. It is not the family’s fault. The alcoholic/addict’s family system is shaped by years of drug and alcohol abuse and sometimes it takes years to repair. Each family member in an alcoholic/addict’s family has clearly defined roles which were formed in response to the addict’s drug abuse. After the addict, or alcoholic, gets sober, the roles must change to accommodate the new dynamics. Unfortunately, the family often is left untreated. Therefore, when an alcoholic returns to the old family system, there is confusion and an unconscious desire by the untreated family members to return to the old, dysfunctional system of interaction. Family members of the alcoholic/addict are often unaware of their desire to return the way things used to be. As much as the family members want the alcoholic/addict to recover, they are left confused by the alcoholic’s sobriety. This will often result in family members not knowing how to act in front of the alcoholic, or acting in a way that they are familiar with around the alcoholic. When untreated family members assume old roles around the treated alcoholic/addict they subtly push the alcoholic/addict out of recovery.
Many alcoholics and addicts new to sobriety (one year or less) often feel they have to go home for the holidays, but they don’t. In fact, it is often suggested that newly sober alcoholics/addicts do not return home for the holidays or, if they do, that they only return for a short period of time. It may take some time for the alcoholic’s family to adjust to the newly sober family member.