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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.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tis the season...

I’m very close to being done with my holiday shopping. My usual routine is to not wrap the gifts as I buy them, but rather to go on a wrapping frenzy on the 23rd of December. I start out creating beautifully matching wrap with a bauble attached with ribbons spending at least 30 minutes on each one. I admire them as through they are a work of art. By the time Christmas morning comes around, I’m using recycled paper from previous years held together with bits of tape – no matching anything, no bauble and no ribbon. I can wrap a package in 3 minutes. Oh! How I wish I could break this cycle…

It’s not clear to me yet what we are going to do about Christmas. It is a situation that requires some thought and planning. Maybe I could turn the calendar page and just go on to New Year’s Day. Hey, it’s just a few days… no one will miss them…

Back in the day, Christmas was always a big deal around our house. There were lots of parties, gift exchanges, great food, laughter, singing and just plain downright happiness. I loved watching the kids’ faces as they tried to figure out just what they were getting that year. Even if they guessed correctly, I never let on that they were right. The holiday season was my favorite time of year.

I don’t know what has happened to me, but I’m not so much in a Christmas spirit anymore. I love getting the grandkids gifts and watching them unwrap them, but I no longer have a strong desire to socialize with anyone else. The desire to turn the calendar page and forget the day gets stronger each year. Riley is pressuring me to put up the tree, bake some cookies and listen to carols. The more he pressures, the less enthusiastic I am. When did I become a person who simply tolerates the holidays rather than rejoicing in them? This is another cycle I’d like to break.

During the years that I was separated from Riley, I had my family that included my brothers and their families. Even though I had no small children immediately surrounding me – I had family. When the miles separated me from my brothers, I had surrogate families created from my non-blood friends and work buddies. It was always a happy time for me. So what’s my problem now? I’m only two hours from my daughter and grandchildren. I should be elated that they are so near. Yet I have a feeling of dread; a longing for the day to pass.

And now, my focus is on figuring out the “why” behind my attitude. I think back to each Christmas counting backwards from this one.

In 2010, it was after Riley and I had moved to the country. The weather was overcast with predictions of snow. We had no transportation so my daughter came out and picked us up on the 23rd. We had a lovely Christmas Eve at the home of my son-in-law’s mother. The grandkids arrived Christmas morning and we opened the gifts followed by a yummy dinner. This was the Christmas that Riley wet on my daughter’s new white ottoman. It snowed heavily and we could not get back to our house or even off the island where they lived. We covered all the furniture with plastic trash bags to protect it from Riley’s accidents. When we finally got home, five days later, I was happy it was over.

Christmas 2009 was the year that my grandson’s family lived with us in a great big house near my daughter. There was a lot of hustle and bustle with people preparing for Santa’s arrival. The tree was up and decorated with gifts exceeding beyond the edges of the tree. I was busy baking cookies, shopping and wrapping gifts. It was, also, the year that Riley was drinking a handle of vodka a day. He knocked the tree over many times just trying to get from the living room to his bedroom. He spilled his drinks onto the wrapped packages. He wanted to hug everyone, but smelled so bad people pushed him away.

I think Christmas 2008 may have been the hardest ever. It was the first Christmas without my son. I sequestered myself from everyone. If I slept long enough, maybe I could sleep through the whole season. I longed to hear my son say “Ho! Maw! What'd ya get me??” but there was no phone call, no invitation, nothing. I know my daughter was hurting as well, but we seemed unable to join forces in our grief. We were each very much alone. I talked to my brothers, but most often, I just let the phone ring rather than pick up. Thank goodness for caller ID.

So, it seems clear to me now. For the past three years, Christmas has been combined with some sort of unfortunate consequence. Maybe, I’m worried about what the consequence will be this year. If I treat it as any other day, maybe there won’t be a consequence at all.

My daughter senses my reluctance of celebrating the season. She surmises that I don’t want Riley around the family because he is unpredictable. If I keep him out here in the country, away from the fam, he can do no harm to furniture or to people’s feelings. Not having Christmas is safer than taking the risk. She has announced that she is spending that morning with the kids and coming to my house for dinner. I am grateful for that. It’s just dinner. We will open our gifts and spend some quality time together. If Riley makes a mess – it’s a mess in MY house that I can deal with.

I think I’ll get the tree and decorations out of the shed. I’ll tell him it is up to him to handle the decorating task. Who knows, maybe the sight of the fully decked out tree will light a spark of excitement in my attitude.


Syd said...

Those are tough situations to get over, especially the loss of your son. I cannot imagine such a tragic loss. Grief can go on for years. One of my Al-Anon friends lost his son several years ago. This time of year is truly hard on him. He is still grieving that loss. I think that too often I think that I am supposed to be happy because the media and others tell me so. And that heaps up guilt or makes me withdraw more because I may not feel so enthusiastic. I know that this year will be a quiet Christmas. We simply are worn out from all the family stuff. We just want some peace and no drama.

Kitty said...

your last several Christmases have certainly been not the most joyous. It's no surprise you approach the holiday with trepidation. We had a very traumatic Halloween back in 1995 and it took years for that "feeling" to wear off. I had similar experience with Thanksgiving long ago, and that took a good many years to turn around as well.
Keeping Riley sequestered sounds like a good idea for this year. I hope you can still find special moments with the rest of your family.

Anonymous said...

I love Xmas, my tree's are up, my presents are all wrapped up. But xmas day i have no enthusiasm for at all and my kids are only 16 and 11. They are at their dads this year, we take it in turns and under the circumstances with Dave being so ill its prob best it is his turn. Ive decided im not cooking a xmas dinner, Dave's never eats more than about 5 slices of toast per week these days so whats the point just for me. My kids are coming back at 5pm for tea so im going to put together a nice buffet instead, Dave can at least pick at it if nothing else. We have been invited to friends and family gatherings but Dave never leaves the house now, he is petrified of going anywhere and i dont feel like i want to go anywhere either. I should do and people keep trying to encourage me too. I think the answer is simple really, living with an end stager puts a cloud of depression over you, it might not touch you but its still there. Much easier to relax at home at xmas than take your clound anywhere else.

ADDY said...

Before I got to the end of your post, I figured it was because you had been conditioned into associating Christmas with something bad. I was obviously right. This is the cross that those who live with alcoholics must bear - the embarrassment, the arguing, the lack of hygiene or decorum, the accidents. In the end it is far easier to crawl away and desocialise. I can understand perfectly how you feel. If Riley wants the tree and all the trimmings let him do it. Hopefully he'll drink less while he's doing it, he'll get his tree and you'll get a bit of peace and quiet! Better Christmasses lie in the years ahead! Believe me.

Anonymous said...

I am not decorating, not in the spirit of the season, just want the days to hurry up and pass me by also. I totally understand where you are. I am just simply too tired from what all has been and worn out thinking about what will be. Especially during the holidays. Looking for January 2nd to hurry up and get here.

god said...

You are so good at expressing your feelings. Several comments you made are classic signs of depression and it's very common for a caretaker to suffer from depression.

I truly hope that while you are a caretaker for just about everyone else in your family (shielding them from the effects of Riley's illness, taking care of Riley, etc.) that you do some things to take care of you.

You have experienced a lot of trauma and you've chosen a very hard but commendable path. Taking care of you should be job #1.

One day, this will all be over... how you are after this is all over will greatly depend upon how whole you have kept yourself through the storm.

Having a counselor, someone to talk to, just for you may be all you need to help you see how little things you do for yourself can have a big payoff for you and how you feel.

I'm sending good thoughts to you this Christmas. May you be richly blessed.

Margie Porter said...

God, I feel the same way! I did put up our Christmas tree and it did NOT spark any "spirit" in me. I have been told so many times .... leave. Not possible. Feeling so confused and broken right now.