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!!!
at 12:52 PM