The holidays were always times I dreaded during the years our family was immersed in the systems illness of substance use disorder.
Once November rolled around, I could feel a big fat knot grow in my heart anticipating the weeks till January 2nd.
Holidays spotlighted – with an unrelenting, harsh glare – all that was going wrong with our family. During those years, a lot of the time, all I could see was the brokenness, the sadness, the empty place at the table, and uncertainty of our world caused by the symptoms of the illness of addiction.
It was heartbreaking and it was real.
There were steps I took to push back against all that heartbreak. While those steps did not completely eradicate the powerful grip the illness of addiction had on my family, they did help to bolster the true spirit of the holidays in our home.
During those weeks, I upped my reach out to our beloved family counselor, Dr. Bill Cipriano. His wisdom was always a deep well to draw on – especially when all the jingle, jingle, ho, ho, ho and joy to the world stood in such sharp contrast to my sad soul.
Seeking consistent help from a compassionate counseling professional, who understood the tornadic effect addiction has on the entire family system, helped me to manage my expectations of how the precious weeks of the holidays would unfold.
As much as I wanted to gain back the years when the holidays were truly happy celebrations of faith and family traditions, I knew we were living in a situation that required a major recalibration. There were things we still did as a family, and there were things we chose not to do.
For me there was a constant backdrop of a kind of grief for what we had lost as this progressive illness progressed in the life of our beloved son and, in one way or another, in the lives of the rest of our family.
I am thankful for the love, wisdom, and support of those who accompanied us during the rough holiday seasons – especially Dr. Cipriano. I am thankful that our family has found through God’s grace, the power of prayer and the hard work of change a lasting recovery solution.
I pray for peace and happiness for your family this holiday season.
Has professional counseling helped you?
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Nancy and her son, JP, are co-authors of Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message. Their book tells the true story of JP’s descent into opioid and alcohol addiction to recovery to become co-founder of a national treatment healthcare system.