The Family Drug Addict and Thanksgiving

 

I don’t know what it is about the holidays. All I know is that the family alcoholics/drug addicts cannot stand the happiness that might happen at this time of the year.

So, they rouse themselves from their self-absorption and go to work, manufacturing crises and doing everything in their power to pull the rest of the family into the traumas of their own devising. They won’t stop until you stop them, or until they’ve made such a mess of the holiday that everyone — Every. Single. Person. — from the littlest baby to the senile old lady is a frazzled wreck, and sullenness and misery hang over the turkey like a fog.

The holidays are their deal. You can set your calendar by the oncoming train wreck that your family drug addict/alcoholic will provide.

I missed it this year. Things have been so lovely lately. I’m deep into a prayer time and I am free of the weight of public office and I just got my piano tuned, and my kids are doing great and my husband loves me and my Mama is precious and, and, and … all is well. Sigh. Close your eyes and breath in the peace.

All this contentment made me a sitting duck for the family drug addict and her annual permutations on holiday-destroying crisis creation. I missed it entirely when I got the calls about going to the hospital. Now, I wasn’t so stupid as to actually drop everything and rush over to the hospital to do some grade-A emergency hand holding. Been there. Done that. Not doing it again.

No, I listened and then started rationing my answers to the phone calls. That helped. But it’s still peace-destroying to have 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 (I kid you not) phone calls in a few hours. I put the phone on silencer, but even the constant buzzing sound of the vibration can make me tighten up inside.

When none of that got me involved, it became a matter of me making decisions which would have gagged Solomon, decisions which I flat-out refused to make. Drug addicts are manipulative to the max, and I got a full dose. Every button that love can create got punched.

It was at this point that I finally realized that, hey, Thanksgiving is this week and this is the Annual Ruin the Holidays whatever. After I finally “got” it, things simplified.

I no longer feel harassed because I no longer feel pulled in two directions. My normal instinct to go and save someone I love is disconnected now. I realize that this is just her, doing her druggie thing that she does every year and I have no reason to feel conflicted about not allowing her to jerk me into it. I am actually doing the responsible thing for myself, my family, my guests and for her.

As soon as Thanksgiving is past, she will go back to her usual drug doing life and all will be quiet until she ramps it up again for Christmas.

Because nothing any of us can do will “fix” the family drug addict/alcoholic. That’s all on them. There is so much help out there for them; our whole society runs around with its hands out, trying to convince them to take treatment.

I’ve done the deal with my family drug addict. We’ve been through the phoney-baloney-hyped-up uselessness of the most expensive treatment center in Oklahoma. It did no good, largely because it catered to its privileged clients and went in for touchy-feely puff and stuff instead of demanding the raw grit of honesty.

For my money, AA — which is free — is the single best program. It works. I’ve seen it work.

But nothing is going to do any good unless the drug addict/alcoholic wants it to work enough to swim through the misery of change. Change, even without alcohol and drugs, is never easy.

Giving up an addiction to a substance is both physical and mental. It requires going through some unpleasant detoxing and some even more unpleasant honesty and then topping that off with leaving behind the warm bath of your old drug/alcohol supporting friends and lifestyle and jumping into the cold snow of living life naked, without the drugs/alcohol to blur out the edges.

I know people who have recovered from addiction. They did it the hard way. It began by making a decision that they didn’t want to die. That’s a wise and realistic decision, because alcoholism and drug addiction are killers. First, they destroy your personality. Then, they destroy your family. Then, they lay you in the ground.

I’m not writing this to vent about my experiences with the family drug addict. I’m writing it to tell you what you must do with your family alcoholic/drug addict this holiday.

Send them away.

Shut the door and don’t let them in. If you have children, you must keep them away. Children deserve and must have a stable environment to be able to grow into the people they were meant to be. Children deserve a Thanksgiving free of the manufactured and utterly unnecessary drama that alcoholics and drug addicts inflict on people. As their parent, it is your job to protect them from the crazy destructiveness of the drug and alcohol addicted.

If you have children, give the family drug addict/alcoholic the heave ho. I mean that. Kick them out and nail the door shut behind them. They can stop when they want to stop. There is a whole world of help out there, begging them to allow themselves to be aided in their recovery.

But you can not stop them. You can not help them.

What you can do is save yourself, your family, and most importantly, your children from the chaos and complete destruction that will happen if you let these people in.

Just to make my point clear, I’m going to repeat it: If you have children, your first responsibility is to keep the kids clear of the drug addict/alcoholic and their soul destroying behavior. Protect your kids: Kick the drug addict/alcoholic out.

I’m going back to my retreat now. That may sound a bit counter-intuitive, after this rant. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to forgive? Aren’t we supposed to lend a helping hand?

In truth, forgiveness doesn’t enter into this. I love the family drug addict, and love always forgives. I’ve forgiven her already. It’s not a matter of forgiveness, it’s a matter of accepting reality. And the reality is that until/unless she really wants to stop using, I can’t help her.  My only choice is whether or not I let her destroy other people along with herself.

I have a lot to pray about. The one thing you can do for drug addicts/alcoholics is pray for them. That does work. Again, I’ve seen it work. Pray for them and for yourself and the rest of the family. And then trust them to God. You’ve done all you can do.

The Only Life You Can Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner is the Messy One You’ve Got

We bring the messes we’ve made of our lives to the dinner table on Thanksgiving. That can make this once-a-year family meal into a battlefield or, as more often happens, a sullen duty.

Families marred and disfigured by drugs, violence and too many divorces are incubators for fractured people without  inner peace and contentment. This kind of family robs them of their spiritual and emotional freedom, leaving them trapped in a spider’s web of resentments and anger. They can’t feel joy. They cannot share joyous times with anyone, but especially not each other. That is what the loss of family does to people.

I know people who spend all day Thanksgiving driving from the husband’s mother’s house to the husband’s father’s house, to the wife’s mother’s house, and on to the wife’s father’s house, sitting down to a full-bore Thanksgiving feast at each stop.

They are dutiful and long-suffering in their efforts to make up to their parents what their parents have done to themselves with their divorces and remarriages. Thanksgiving for them is a joyless and exhausting round of overeating and trying to make right what wasn’t their fault in the first place.

Oftentimes, these same frazzled and over-stuffed people are fresh from arguments with their former spouses over when and how to shuffle their children back and forth between them. In some families, the two spouses each have children from prior marriages and maybe one or two they’ve had together to transport around.

It all becomes an endurance march instead of a delight, a dreaded day rather than an anticipated one.

Then there are the unhappy Thanksgiving feasts where relatives who actively hate one another sit through a meal in an atmosphere that buzzes with sullen resentments and long-time grudges. All this is mixed in with the dread of the cousin or stepfather showing up loaded on drugs or stumbling from booze.

The interesting part of all this is how often the people who are leading these miserable lives full of self-inflicted misery blame society, each other and God for the messes they’ve made of the time they’ve been given in this life. The same parents who shuffle their kids on the parent to parent express and live their lives in a bath of resentment and anger will wail and whine “I didn’t raise them this way” when those children hit their teens and turn into mixed-up monsters of sexual promiscuity, rebellion, narcissism and drugs.

Thanksgiving can be a rough day for families full of people with messy lives. The reason is that the enforced family togetherness brings all their disparate chickens flapping home to roost. Everything they numb and blind themselves to all the rest of the year flies up and lands in front of them on Thanksgiving.

For one day, they are faced with the mess they’ve made of their families, the utter lack of a stable home they have provided for either themselves or their children.

We’ve made Thanksgiving tough by the expectations and endless requirements we heap on ourselves.

Let me repeat that: We’ve made Thanksgiving tough by the expectations and endless requirements we heap on ourselves. 

There is no requirement that we spend Thanksgiving shuffling our children and ourselves from broken home to broken home. We do not have to allow the family drunk/drug addict to show up and destroy things. If our relatives beat us when we were kids, we don’t have to see them now.

We can’t undo divorces. We can’t control other people. But, if we’ll stop blaming and whining, we will realize that we have absolute control over ourselves.

We can sit down with our children and our spouses and determine what matters to us on this day. The most important thing, of course, is the children. For some reason, these families who’ve made a mess of things are the first ones to forget that, so let me repeat it: The most important thing is the children.

If you’ve made a mess of your life and theirs with multiple marriages, remember that you owe them as much stability and emotional security as you can salvage from the complications you have inflicted on their young lives.

What is best for them?

Here are a few thoughts, based on my years of raising kids, seeing my friends raise kids and going with those same friends to the police station or the mental ward of the hospital to visit their kids when they were teens.

Why not, instead of dragging your kids from one of your divorced relative’s homes to another, have dinner at your house and tell your relatives they can come if they want, but they have to play nice and behave if they do? If they throw a fit, let them. Your children are more important than their fits.

If your parents haven’t spoken in 30 years and will not be in the same room together, that’s their choice. You first responsibility is to your own children. You can have a nice dinner with each of your parents in turn on some other day. But do not let them indulge their ancient hatreds and ruin Thanksgiving for your own family and your children.

Why not, instead of shuffling children back and forth between your former spouses and you, arrange that one spouse will have them on Christmas day and another will have them on Thanksgiving? Then, when it’s your turn to share the kids, have Thanksgiving or Christmas early for your kids at your house before sending them off.

Never say a word of resentment or spite while you are doing this. Do not whine and complain about how awful it all is for you. Invite the extended family. Do it right. Provide your children with an actual, family Thanksgiving, even if it isn’t on exactly the right day.

Why not, instead of nursing grievances from when you were six or sixteen, grow up and accept that none of this narcissistic self-indulgent picking at old scabs matters anymore? It’s over. Be done with it.

If you come from a background where you were abused (and I mean abuse, not that your big brother had a larger room than you and your folks bought your sister a prettier prom dress than yours) if you come from a background with beatings, sexual abuse or some such, then, stay away from those people. Dump them. Be done with them.

Don’t go near the people who treated you like this. Get therapy and figure out that they are poison and live your life without them. Definitely protect your children from these folks by not letting them near them.

As for the endless list of gotta dos that we inflict on ourselves at the holidays, my advice is to get real. Your house and your meal are not going on a magazine cover. So stop worrying about it.

Thanksgiving is about Thanks Giving. It’s about bringing the bizarreness of our lives to a pause for one day and eating a delicious meal, watching some football, playing a few board games with the people we love.

Some families are able to ease the work by everyone pitching in and bringing a dish. That way no one is overloaded with cooking. If that doesn’t work for your family (it doesn’t for mine) then the person who does the meal calls the shots. Do not wear yourself to a frazzle preparing a meal for the memory book. Prepare a good/great meal and enjoy.

A few other do nots are do not plan on putting up your Christmas decorations after you eat dinner. (Unless, of course, everyone has fun doing this.) Do not use china or table settings that are more precious to you than the people eating from them. Do not expect your relatives to be anybody else than who they are on this day. If your brother-in-law always shows up late, he’ll be late on Thanksgiving. Family is home, and home is a place of the heart where this sort of thing doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t wait dinner for him. But there’s no point getting upset about it, either.

I know I’m going to make some people mad with this post. It almost certainly cuts close to the bone for a lot of people and I’m not being overly sympathetic.

That’s because I’m writing it for the children. I want every parent to make this wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving a gift of real family for them. No matter how complicated your life has become, stop, think and work out ways to provide your children with a nurturing, calm and love-filled day.

It will be a gift to you as well as them, both now and for years to come.

 

 

 

Co-Dependent Nation: Living in I Can’t Say No Land

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Raise your hand if you have a family member or friend with drug or alcohol problems.

Are your hands at your side? If they are, think carefully.

What about that cousin no one talks about? You know the one; the family embarrassment that you haven’t seen for years but that you know is out there somewhere, tippling, shooting up, snorting or pill-popping their way to an early grave. What about your high school friend who started missing classes and ended up missing in action for life?

Now. I’ll ask again. Raise your hand if you have a family member or friend with drug or alcohol problems.

Ok. Has everybody got a hand in the air? Good. Now we can talk.

If everybody was honest, there were a lot of raised hands. There is a whole lot of drinking and drugging going on. That leads to the conclusion that there is probably an equal or even greater amount of codependence going on alongside it.

My untutored, unprofessional, entirely observational definition of codendence is that it is the fine art of making excuses for and buying into the lies of miscreants in such a way that you help them continue misbehaving. Meanwhile, you sacrifice yourself for them and their lies.

Codependence creates miserable people with no self-esteem. Codependents feel guilty about things other people do, look for happiness in all the wrong places and constantly try to rescue people who don’t want to be rescued. It doesn’t just apply to drinking, or even to drugs. You can be co-dependent about any kind of bad behavior out there.

Codependence has insinuated itself into the fabric of our society. Co-dependent standards have become our society’s measure for judging human behavior and even public policy. They determine our way of thinking, reacting, and interacting.

Codependence is not only allowed and encouraged, it is actually enforced through the unwritten rules of political correctness, phony tolerance and a self-conscious refusal to “judge,” which has become a block to using our higher thinking faculties when dealing with other people.

This ubiquitous societal codependence adds the burden of willful intellectual blindness to anyone who tries to help or heal the fallen people of this world. We become so confused that we don’t know and can’t react when people are using us and our kindness in a callous manner with no intention of reforming. We are prisoners of our own good intentions, unable to judge, discern, or react in intelligent ways. We can’t set limits, have been shorn of the language to express our concerns, and feel guilty about protecting ourselves from abuse and mistreatment. We are co-dependent.

Our whole society is co-dependent. It is so co-dependent that the only crime we consider really wrong is child molesting. All other crimes, including the most hideous rapes and murders, become, in our twisted reasoning, something we need to “understand” and which we say the victim themselves probably helped cause. We are so co-dependent that the only actions we are willing to condemn are failures to be co-dependent.

Pity the poor soul with the temerity to say that violations of moral law, of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, are sins, and that sin is the root cause of our social ills. The public shaming meted out to “intolerant religious fanatics” and “theists” who dare say things like this is equal to none other.

That’s why people who run helping ministries find themselves in a guilty conundrum over the resentment they rightfully feel about being used by the using users of our society. The moral half of their ministry has been taken from them by political correctness and our universal societal sickness of co-dependence. We need to help people who are caught in the consequences of their bad behavior, and we need to do it with love. There is no place in a Christian ministry for the condemnation of persons.

At the same time, we need to give ourselves the freedom to know and say that there was bad behavior and that sin is its root cause. Part of helping a person who is trapped in out of control behavior lies in helping them heal from the immediate physical and emotional damage they have inflicted on themselves. They’re down and they need help standing back up. 

The other part of helping them is to help them not do it again. That means telling them that what they did was wrong and, if they want a better life, they have to change. It means working with and not against the Holy Spirit in convicting them of their sins. It means not making excuses for them or letting them believe that sin plays no part in their actions. It means never explaining away the harm they’ve done or the debt they owe to try to make it right again.

Codependence enforcers are fond of quoting the words of Jesus to the woman taken in adultery, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” They use this verse as a club to guilt Christians into joining them on the co-dependent band wagon that masquerades as love and tolerance. What they leave out is that Jesus also said, “Go, and sin no more.” He didn’t stone the woman caught in adultery. He didn’t condemn her. In fact He expressly said that He didn’t condemn her. But He didn’t pretend that she hadn’t done anything wrong. He didn’t cite her poverty or even the rank misogyny of the men who were trying to stone her as excuses for what she had done. “Go. And sin no more.” he said. “Sin no more.”

People who want to misuse scripture to justify themselves often pull a verse out of context. The irony here is that many of the people who quote this particular verse in this particular fashion aren’t even Christians. They’re secularists, trying to bully Christians into accepting the rules of this world instead of the teachings of the Gospel. What they are asking Christians to do is to lie to people; to tell them that sin is not sin, wrong is ok, and that the harm they do to others is in some mysterious way the fault of the ones they have harmed. This is not love. It is also not ministry. It is societally enforced codependence.

If codependence is a sickness, then we are a very sick society. Forcing our minds to shear lose from our ability to see and discern, to evaluate and decide in this way does great damage to our ability to think coherently. It has, over time, left us at the mercy of the most obvious propaganda and lies. It makes us easy marks for demagogues and corrupt politics that would defraud us of all we have. 

“In an insane society, a sane man must appear insane.” That’s a quote from Mr Spock of Star Trek fame. Unfortunately for us, this is one time when science fiction speaks truth. Going against the co-dependent flow will make you the target of those who have an interest in the way things are. This is nothing new for true followers of Christ. We live in this world, but we do not follow it. We are part of this time and of this world. But we are not just that. We are also part of the Kingdom of God and while we live in this time, this epoch, we also live in eternity. Even though we live and work in the here and now, our membership in the Kingdom coming, our life in eternity, has and will always have, prior claim on us.

We are called to be the sane citizens in our insane society. Our yardstick for evaluating ourselves and other people must never be the fashionably codependent measure of relativism. We must live by the Gospels, which means that we obey the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

We do it because God Himself told us to.


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