Should an Addict be Allowed Home for the Holidays

It’s amazing how many calls I get during the holiday season asking me if it’s okay for the family of a practicing addict to invite them home for Christmas. Or better yet, a family member has already invited them home and the rest of the family didn’t know about it. Now they don’t know what to do.

Advising families on this topic is one of the most difficult. My immediate answer to them is to advise against inviting the addict home.  Don’t even allow them in the neighborhood, let alone inside your home. I know this is not a popular answer but what makes the holidays any different from the rest of the year? Families want to believe that by some miracle the holidays are going to make the addict stop using for at least a couple of days. I wish that were true, it would surely make my job much easier. It’s amazing to me how many families are locked in to doing “damage control” rather than addressing the real problem. They are so blind they can’t see the real outcome of drug addiction.

The fact is, the addiction doesn’t stop for the holidays, and it never takes a vacation because Santa is coming to town. When you invite a practicing drug addict into your home for any reason, you’ll never know what’s going to happen. This may sound harsh, but I am speaking from personal experience because I was that guy. My family didn’t know which version of me was going to show up. Would it be the happy Flindt or the angry Flindt? Would they find me passed out in the back bedroom or ready to fall over in my plate at the dinner table? It would have been anyone’s guess.

Most of the time when the practicing addict comes home they can’t wait to leave. They come in like everything is normal and try to act like they’re not high. Or maybe they came home and they’re detoxing and perhaps looking for something to steal so they can get the fix they need. Either way, it’s a complete mess and the rest of the family is left to deal with the aftermath. Everyone keeps saying, “But it’s Christmas, why can’t he just be normal for a little while?” Mom’s crying, Dad’s pissed, Grandma and Grandpa just don’t understand how their grandchild can act like this, and brothers and sisters are filled with resentment. Maybe a 9-year-old niece or nephew walks into the bathroom and sees the addict shooting up Heroin or snorting Oxycontin because he forgot to lock the bathroom door. How much fun is everyone having now?

No matter how you slice it, when you have a family member who is a practicing drug addict the choices you have to make are extremely tough and in my opinion there is only one. Do not allow them in! I know this is difficult but think about the alternative. You are not helping the situation, you are simply prolonging it. We, the addict, understand one thing: the hard line. We don’t like it and we are going to be furious with the family’s decision. When everyone in the family is on the same page the addict has two choices:Either continue with what we are doing, or get the help we need. I want everyone to think about this. By not allowing the addict home you are telling them several things:

  1. The family is not going through this hell anymore.
  2. If you want to live like this, it’s your choice but we are no longer supporting your drug addiction and lifestyle.
  3. You are telling them when they are ready for recovery the family will be there for them.

You also should be prepared for the addict to have a meltdown. We will yell, scream, swear at you and of course tell you we don’t have a problem, that’s all typical addict behavior. At the very least, you are planting the seed of recovery in the addict’s mind, and best case scenario is they would accept the help right then and there.  Of course there is a chance they will not accept the help. In fact they usually don’t until they know you and the rest of the family really mean business. The sad fact is that sometimes the addiction has to play itself out but I believe it can be shortened by the family holding the hard line.

Damage control with a drug addict never works. 

Nik Ashjian