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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Surviving the holidays...

Enjoy the little things,
For one day you may
Look back and discover
They were the big things. --- Author Unknown

If I could give my readers anything for the holiday, I would give a reprieve from alcoholic behavior even if just for a short time. Since I’m not Santa and don’t have that power – all I can do is try to give you some hints and encouragement. To do that, I must think back to different points in my life and think about how I handled the holidays at those particular points. Memories flood back that are seldom those of joyous times. So I move on to “What did I learn from that?”

When my children were younger – pre-teens or so – I pretended that I was a single parent. In reality, for as much as Riley was around, I really was a single parent. But, even if he was physically present, it didn’t matter. I didn’t count on him to go to the school programs, do the shopping or participant in the usual events. If he came along, well, OK. But, I didn’t encourage him to go.

About the only task Riley seemed to enjoy and made an effort at attending was picking out the Christmas tree. He took a lot of pride in picking out the right tree and getting it home. We would get the tree into the stand and make it perfectly straight and tall. And that’s where it would sit – unadorned -- until Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve at our house was special. It didn’t matter how drunk Riley was because everyone we invited would usually end up tipping a few too many. Every Christmas Eve we held an “open house” for all our neighbors and anyone else who wanted to show up. A buffet of fabulous food was set out, the house was decorated, we got all dressed up, and then we’d flip on the lights around the front door to indicate we were ready for company. Anyone attending was required to hang an ornament on the tree. We stood around, laughing, talking, eating and drinking. Sometime around 11 p.m. the lights would go off and the event was over.

The next morning we would do our Christmas gift exchange with the kids eagerly awaiting each perfectly wrapped gift. Then breakfast. The kids and I would play with our new treasures and watch TV and eat candy and just have a lovely time. Riley was usually there for dinner but he might not be. I didn’t expect him to and if he did – that was nice. Then Riley would disappear into the night and I would become a single parent again.

I guess my point here is, only expect what your experience tells you that you can receive. Looking back, I knew the little thing of picking out the tree and our Christmas Eve Open House was something I could expect Riley to share. It was a little thing that turned into a big thing. I’m thankful for those little things.

How I handle holidays now is different from year to year. It depends on if Riley is in drinking mode or sober mode. Last year he was drinking and we limited his contact with the grandchildren. We had dinner at our house because it was easier than trying to get Riley out of the house.

This year, we are going to Alea’s house. It’s a rare year because Riley is sober. Of course, venturing to the city means taking a risk that he will manage to get his hands on some alcohol. But, I won’t let that stop me from enjoying my daughter and grandchildren. If Rily drinks, he drinks. That’s that. I will have help with Riley supervision and that is in itself – a gift. I expect him to drink and if he doesn’t – it’s a gift. If he behaves himself – it’s a gift. I won’t let the knowledge that he might drink and/or make an ass of himself overpower the enjoyment of being with my family because -- my family is a gift.

I have a follower whose husband lost the fight over alcohol. This rest of this post is dedicated to her.

Alcoholism is a terminal disease. If you don’t believe it’s a disease, then it’s a terminal situation. No matter how you look at it – other than sobriety – the only way out is by leaving this world. For most of us non-alcoholics, we realize that fact and fight it every single day. Even when we say we won’t – we do.

As with any terminal disease the grieving process doesn’t start the day of the final passage. It starts with the realization that we are helpless to really make a difference. That’s when we start mourning the loss of our alcoholic. It’s about a way of life that vanished before the passing. It’s about the person that stopped mentally living with us while in our physical presence. So, if we appear to others to not be mourning “properly”, it’s because we started the process long ago. The tears don’t fall so freely. But, don’t doubt they have been shed.

So once the alcoholic has passed and we are left with the remnants of what was long ago such a promising lifetime of happiness, we must take stock in the final gift the alcoholic gives us. It is the most kind and loving gift that could ever be given. The gift is a holiday that has the absence of insanity. The alcoholic has removed his insanity from your life and given you permission to see the world with a fresh new pair of glasses.

I suggest you take a few minutes of your Christmas morning and sit in silence. Think about the good holidays you shared. Smile. Cry. And then say a quiet “thank you” for the gift he gives you today.

There is a book “How to Survive the Loss of Love.” I love this book. It was given to me after my father died and I’ve worn out several copies. It’s not a typical self-help book. It’s a simple-read filled with poems and other writings while easing the pain. The authors are Peter McWilliams, Harold Bloomfield, and Melba Cosgrove. Consider ordering a copy. It is well worth the small cost.

To all my readers –

Have a very wonderful and happy holiday!!!

8 comments:

DogLover said...

I come new to your blog, Linda, from Addy's Alcoholic Daze and I like what you say in the part of your posting dedicated to her. The idea of thanking my partner for "the most kind and loving gift that could ever be given" is new to me and I cherish it. It is almost four years since she died, but I still miss her even though we lost our "promising lifetime of happiness" so many years ago.

Thank you for the idea and may you yourself have a peaceful Christmas.

Alcoholic Daze (ADDY) said...

Dear Linda

I appreciate your erudite words. I have not looked at things in the way you suggest and maybe I should. They make sense. I certainly lost the Greg I loved years ago and, as you say, mourned him then and shed many tears. That is probably why I cannot cry now - my tears are all spent. The idea of his death being a gift is one I have not contemplated before, but I shall start to work on this over Christmas. Many thanks for this advice. A peaceful Christmas to you and your family, as well as health and happiness in 2011. Love Addy

Anonymous said...

Once again Linda, thank you for your beautifully written and meaningful blog. I check it every day and find a great deal of help and understanding in your well chosen words. I do hope you keep this up.
Wishing you all the best.
Thanks again

Alea B said...

I cried when I lost you, though you were here every day.
I fought for you to come back,
but you would not stay.
I am weary, from the long hard fight.
So weary now, that I can not cry.
Questions and doubts flood my mind
Peace is what I hope to find.
Its not easy, but I have to try
To say I love you and
Goodbye.
Alea B.

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Have a wonderful Christmas Linda. Kind regards to you and all your family.

Anna :o]

Syd said...

Linda, I am grateful my wife is sober and in AA. Has Riley been to AA? It could help give back to you the man that he used to be. I don't know whether you have read the book Alcoholics Anonymous. It is worth a read. I don't think that the alcoholic can recover truly until the mental obsession, physical craving, and spiritual malady are resolved.

Chuck Gesing said...

Thank you so much for this blog. My father in law is slowly dying of alcoholism. Trying to talk to people about it is very difficult. They truly don't understand the magnitude of the problem. Your blog is a help to me and my wife.

Chuck Gesing said...

Thank you for this blog. My father in law is currently dying of alcoholism. Most people don't understand the magnitude of the problem. Your blog has been a sane place for my wife and I.