If you have a complicated relationship with a senior parent, the holidays can be a stressful time, especially if you have hopes of someday making it better between the two of you. If your parent has recently entered treatment for addiction, your relationship is likely fraught with even more difficulty.

When the holidays approach, you may have feelings of dread and pain, knowing the season won’t be as merry without the loving embrace of your parent. If you want to reconnect, there’s no time like the present. And with a renewed sense of accomplishment from addiction treatment, your parent may be wishing for the same thing.

Understanding Addiction

In order to forgive, it helps to understand addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease in which the person has strong impulses to seek drugs or alcohol despite the harmful effects on their body and those around them. While the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary, the brain changes that occur over time cause an addicted person’s self-control to disappear and can curb their ability to resist the intense impulse to use.

Like other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, addiction can be managed. However, it’s not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin using again. Relapse doesn’t mean the end of treatment, but it does mean that treatment should start again, and perhaps it should be changed to adjust for new circumstances.

Addiction in seniors

Senior are not immune to addiction. http://mentalhealthforseniors.com/ Older adults are dealing with many painful aspects of aging, such as loneliness, loss of abilities, chronic illnesses and less mobility. These things can lead to drinking more heavily or turning to drugs. Seniors also take a lot more prescription opiates, and these can be very addictive.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, there are 2.5 million older adults with an alcohol or drug problem. Six to 11 percent of senior hospital admissions are because of alcohol or drug problems: 14 percent of senior emergency room admissions and 20 percent of senior psychiatric hospital admissions. Almost 50 percent of nursing home residents have alcohol-related issues. Nearly 17 million prescriptions for tranquilizers are prescribed for older adults each year, with benzodiazepines being the most commonly abused medication.

If your elderly parent has recently started treatment, understand that it’s not your fault. Their addiction came about because of their initial choices to use drugs or drink, not because of anything you did. If your parent was using when you were a child, you likely took a lot of blame while growing up, which means you automatically internalize the narrative. Again, it’s not your fault.

If you’re struggling with your own self-esteem around your parent’s addiction, try seeking help from a professional. Seeing a therapist will help you understand why you think the way you do and what you can do to change it. A therapist will also help you with approaches to reconciliation.https://karryon.privacemail.com/

Mending fences

When it is time to talk, don’t attack. Remember to use “I statements,” instead of “you statements.” “You always …” is an attack. “I feel …” is a safer approach. Know what to expect out of the conversation: Do you want an apology? Do you want to be left alone? Do you want to hear that your loved? You might not get everything you ask for, but you should know what it is you would like.

Be patient. Reconciliation doesn’t come easy https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/975200.Daniel_Bates/blog– it’s unlikely your parent will apologize and you’ll suddenly feel better. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Even if your parent is perfectly conciliatory, you might not experience healing for quite some time.

Give it time, and take baby steps. Even with just a little dialogue with your parent, you might be able to get through the holidays without a fight or increased hard feelings. But if things go south, you’ll feel better knowing that you tried. And you can always try again another time.

Contributed by Teresa Greenhill

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