Holiday Treatment

If your loved one is in treatment this season, read about some of the ways we found joy and check out some of our archived blog posts. December 2013, my son decided to go to treatment. Although he was bummed about “missing the holidays,” it was the best decision he could have made and it turned out to be one of our best-ever Christmases. Perhaps, this will help you have a happier experience as well. MWM

Our drive to treatment took place during a blizzard. My son slept and I white-knuckled the slippery roadways. Although he’d been to other treatment programs, this was the first time he made most of the arrangements. He wasn’t excited about it, but he accepted that it was what he needed to do.

That alone was a present, a holiday miracle. I encourage you to recognize the generosity of your loved one’s decision to go to treatment.

In our initial phone calls and contact with our son, he said things were OK but that he was bored and that time passed very slowly. He complained that the group had to put up Christmas decorations, and that it was a stupid, pointless way to spend time.

Although I could understand his frustration and although I felt he was being unfair with his attitude, I just let it go. Instead, I looked forward to our upcoming visit and seeing the decorations.

Just the other day, I had a meeting at a local treatment program (not the one my son attended), and program participants were in the process of putting up Christmas decorations. They were jovial and seeming to enjoy the experience. It made me think of my son’s experience, and my hunch is that he enjoyed it more than he let on.

That brings me to my next piece of wisdom. Don’t let your loved one make you think it’s so miserable. It just takes time for them to get in the swing of treatment and to find hope (if not immediate happiness) in the positive changes underway. That’s not to say it’s all fun and games; treatment is hard work and emotionally draining. Know in your heart that they are in the right place, doing exactly what they need to be doing. That is a true gift.

During our weekly family visits, I brought commercially prepared treats (homemade wasn’t allowed) and lots of games – board games, cards, dominoes, etc. My son wasn’t ready to be conversational, so playing games was an easier way to connect and share our support. Other residents joined in, too.

My son truly likes our holiday treats – fudge, peanut butter balls, frosted sugar cookies – so I made extra and put these in a decorated tin in the freezer so that he could enjoy these when he completed treatment. He very much appreciated that!

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day fell outside of normal family visiting days, so the treatment center designated a special time. It was on Christmas Day from  1 to 3 p.m., if I remember. I had hoped to bring a deep-dish pizza, but our son’s favorite place was closed on Christmas Day. Instead, I brought a variety of snack items (chips, pretzels, crackers) and individual containers of ice cream – a treat he was really missing.

Keep in mind that treatment food gets boring and is very basic. Working within the Center’s guidelines, we were able to bring special treats.

Again, on Christmas Day, we brought games and had family rounds of all sorts of favorites including the card game UNO. None of us missed the “usual” gathering at Grandma’s that year because we were so glad to be with our son who was sober and starting recovery. (Now, the next year … and this year … well, we are blessed to return to our favorite traditions at home. )

We will never forget the year my son spent Christmas at treatment!

Midwestern Mama

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Tradition and Transition – Christmas in Rehab

Traditions are the mainstay of holidays.  We all look forward to certain activities, foods, friends and family.  We hold to these and honor the way we’ve always done things but sometimes changes come along.  Like some many things in life, we can view change as challenge or opportunity.

This year, our Christmas celebration will be different and although that brings nostalgia and a certain discomfort with the prospect of changing tradition, it also comes with hope.  One big part of our changed tradition this year will be that our son is in rehab; he will miss being part of our traditional gathering and activity, and he is understandably a bit sad about this.  In sober times and high times, he’s always been a key personality in our holidays.

Instead, his treatment center is holding visiting hours on Christmas Day from 12:30 to 4 p.m.  Ordinarily, this is the time we would be preparing and enjoying a feast at his grandmother’s house.  The choice of where to be and what to do is obvious for us.  We will be heading over the river and through the woods to the treatment center – mom, dad, big sister and little brother.  We’ll be bringing commercially-prepared treats (my homemade cookies, fudge and peanut butter balls are stashed in the freezer for him to enjoy upon his release in the new year).  We’ll be bringing a bag full of toys (games, actually) to enjoy as a family — UNO, Cribbage, Yahtzee and others.  While it will be a different Christmas Day celebration, it will be no less of a celebration, and one we are all looking forward to.

All that positivity aside, I speak the truth when I know how odd it will feel when he’s not at our dining room table on Christmas Eve for our family’s dinner, and it will be awfully quiet on Christmas morning when he’s not there to discover what Santa left in his stocking or open presents.  At the same time, he’s a young adult and would be transitioning to new holiday routines anyway at some point, so sobriety and recovery are an excellent way to make the transition.

Happy holidays, all!

Midwestern Mama