Addicts plus holidays usually equal disaster. This is because addicts have a tendency to divide family at a celebration, not unite. Relatives fall into one of three categories: those who see the addiction and have no tolerance, those who see the addiction and tolerate it, and those who don’t see the addiction at all.
An addict will take the path of least resistance and be charming with the last two categories while ignoring the first. This divides the parties’ even further causing tension amongst the relatives. When the bickering starts, the addict slips away having made the celebration about them without receiving any direct confrontation. In the end, only the addict is satisfied.
But it doesn’t have to be that way again. There is a better way of surviving the holidays with an addict.
Sensible expectations. Review the addict’s past behavior during celebrations. Take notice of any discernable pattern. This is the best estimate as to how the addict will behave in the future. Don’t set expectations that somehow things will be different this year that type of thinking will only lead to disappointment. Rather, see the pattern for what it is and expect the manipulation, excess, arrogance, deceitfulness, and rudeness. Then, determine what will and will not be tolerated.
Secure consensus. Discuss the expectations with each attendee, including those who follow into the second two categories. The first category will be willing to set boundaries. The second category will go along to keep the peace. But it will not be possible to get the last category to see things differently. Instead, help them to understand that the first two categories have made a decision and everyone would appreciate their silence on the matter.
State boundaries. Prior to the event, have a discussion with the addict about the expectations. Let them know a consensus has already been reached and there will not be any lenience. This discussion is likely to spark anger in the addict. They will be furious that a conversation about them is happening behind their back. Stay calm, don’t respond with any emotion. Use only logic, simple statements, and limit the dialogue time. They will test what is being said by confronting the last category of relatives, so prepare them ahead of time.
Snub self-centeredness. During the celebration, the addict will act as if nothing is wrong and attempt the same old pattern again. Pull them aside and gently remind them of the boundaries. Then immediately change the group conversation to something everyone enjoy or suggest a group game. Playing a game together keeps the addict from making the conversation about them or their interests. This simple act can highlight the addictive behavior even further as the addict continues to seek attention. By the end of the event, some of the second category of relatives will have moved to the first group.
Surviving the holidays with an addict is all about strategy. Don’t allow their addiction to become the center of the celebration again this year.