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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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas... again

We celebrate Christmas and I mean no disrespect to those who don’t celebrate Christmas, but rather some other seasonal celebration. In this post, I use Christmas because it is what happened in our house, but it could really be any holiday – Hanukkah, Kwanza, or others. But these are my memories and this is how I remember it.

It happens every year. Just like clockwork the holiday season arrives and we all breathe a deep sigh. For some people it is a sigh of joy and delight, but for others not so much. There are those that a sigh is used to boost their strength or indicates a feeling of “here we go again.” I know both kinds of sigh and, believe me, the first one is much better.

I remember Christmas’ of joy and delight. I remember seeing twinkling in my children’s eyes and the fun of visiting Santa Claus. It was a happy time filled with gatherings of family and friends, tree trimming, and… oh… so much… fabulous food.

Then there was the other kind of Christmas. Those Christmas’ were filled with worry, doubt, anger and disappointment. When Riley was in a period of making alcohol his mistress, he did not attend the children’s winter concerts nor did he participate in any preparation for the holidays. Mostly, Riley was just absent both physically and mentally. When he was around for a gathering, he was always so drunk that he broke glasses, knocked over Christmas trees, and made suggestive comments to any woman within sight.

After a few of these Christmas failures, I learned not to really include Riley as a factor in the season’s celebrations. I attended parties alone or with a friend. I never even implied to the kids that Riley would go to their concerts. I didn’t expect he would help with things such as shopping, tree trimming, food preparation or going to see Santa. He became an invisible entity within the house. But, then, I didn’t have to worry much about his presence because he was rarely at our home.

I considered myself as somewhat of a single parent and acted in that manner. I refused to let Riley’s “scroogness” have any bearing on my finding joy. I suppose you could say I “detached” from Riley and just continued on.  It doesn’t matter what word you use to describe it, the end result was that it worked for me.

Riley was still somewhat a part of things at Christmas. He read the gift tags and handed out the packages to all of us. He ate Christmas breakfast with us and often stuck around for Christmas dinner. But after dinner he was gone and wouldn’t return for days. It was almost a blessing he was gone because I didn’t have to have conversations with someone who wasn’t quite able to follow the chain of exchanges.

The Christmas’ since Riley had his heart attack have been decreasing in intensity – at least for me. Riley doesn’t seem to care about Christmas except that we have a tree and a huge Christmas feast. We don’t have company during that time so it is just two people trying to enjoy some holiday spirit. But, the enjoyment feels forced.

This year, there will be no tree and our neighbors will be bringing us a plate full of their Christmas feast. I did send out Christmas cards to a few people, I made some holiday wreaths, and that’s about it. I don’t feel that I’m missing anything. My daughter and the rest of the family will be getting together for the whole big Christmas blow out. But, it’s too far for us to go to them especially with Riley as sick as he is so we will talk in the morning and probably in the evening. They will post pictures on Facebook and I’ll be able to see the great-grandkids smiling faces. That will be enough for me this year.

I have hopes of better Christmas’s in the future. I envision that I will be able to go to my grandson’s house and spend several days enjoying the season. The great-grands will be ages 9, 5 and 1 years old. They will be helping me bake cookies and make tree ornaments. We’ll see Santa as he rides down the street on a fire engine. There will be shopping with the adults and lots of yummy food.

Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas future… good and bad, even some just so-so. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which kind it will be until it is upon me. One thing I know for sure is that Christmas will come again as it does every year. Same date, without fail Christmas will arrive.

Today I’m hoping for a sigh of joyful expectations for all my readers for this and every holiday season.


Bev said...

Christmas has changed for us as well. But we still have fun watching the celebration of Christmas unfold around us - we still have our memories - and there's always 'It's A Wonderful Life' to watch on TV even though they make it three hours long with all the commercials. LOL Hope you and Riley have a Merry Christmas Linda : D Here's to the New Year - hope things get better.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog yesterday. This is amazing. I can relate to so much of this. I am dealing with a parent who is end-stage. He has no hopes/desires to go to rehab/detox. He would rather die. On christmas day he fell out of his chair and we had to call neighbors to come and put him back. He prompty diarheaed in his pants. All this while his 3 year old grandson played and opened presents just a few feet away. Sometimes I just lay awake at night crying that the sweet release of death has not come for him yet, and I think this could go on and on forever. I feel so alone and frustrated and ashamed of our family situation. It's so hard to look at facebook and everyone else is posting pictures of a Norman Rockwell christmas with their perfect families. Thank you for writing an honest account of the holidays with an alcoholic. It helps me to not feel so alone.

Anonymous said...


I was looking at a blog for my local sports team and thought it would be interesting to see what blogs there were for people living with an alcoholic. I haven't yet red much of the 300 posts here, but was looking for a place to share some thoughts of my own situation.
My wife has been in rehab for most of the last year. We have been together for a long time, meeting in grad school, living together for years and getting married 17 years ago. We have one wonderful daughter and not much of a marriage. Thinking back, we both had a drinking problem at some level. Because we drifted apart for a number of reasons, she turned to heavy drinking to deal with a high pressure job and a less than fulfilling marriage. My wife is in rehab presently. She came out of rehab a couple of months ago and was living in a sober living house with other women near our home, visiting when she wasn't in an IPO program of at an AA meeting. We were planing to spend Christmas together at our house. We had Thanksgiving dinner at her SLE which was a bit awkward, but nice enough. The weekend before Christmas, I woke up to find my wife in our guest room, having relapsed the night before at her SLE. She was so bad, they had to call an ambulance and she walked home to our house at some point during the night after they detoxed her to the point they could release her. I am not sure what triggered it this time, but even after all this time I can't help but feel guilty, regardless of what they say at Alanon and in my therapy sessions. My wife is a good person who had an up and down childhood including a bad divorce and an abusive father. I had to force her back into rehab and we are lucky to have some financial ability to pay out of pocket. We have probably spent $100,000 over the past 2 years on medical costs. My daughter and I spent New Year's eve with friends. It is very awkward because some have their suspicions, but we have and continue to hide it from most. It is very hard to keep making up ridiculous excuses as to why she isn't around. This is the third very difficult holiday season for us. Two years ago, she actually got drunk before we went to church on Christmas morning. I am struggling with the fact that I may have to leave her. There are very real financial issues that partly keep us together as well as our daughter's best interests, but I think I am unable to really see what is best for our daughter who has seen more than any kid should witness. I just received a text from my wife who hopes for a better 2015. The likelihood of that is very slim if we keep repeating our behavior. I can't see how she will ever recover at this point. When you realize you are not alone in this type of situation, it may nor resolve anything, but it does give some perspective that there are others like you, and that the addict is not doing this to hurt you but you rally don't have control and need to do what is best for you and those you can help. I am not sure I love my wife anymore, and that is not because of her drinking. Her drinking is partly a result of our relationship, but more, in my opinion, because she comes from a family of alcoholics and was abused as a young girl. I appreciate this blog for being able to put thoughts to words and hope anyone reading this can find some peace. I know I am not close to that myself, but once I get past my fears, I know I will have to do what is best for my daughter. I hope someone in this sad community finds some peace in this new year. Thanks for letting me share.