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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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Yes, you can enjoy the holidays...

Am I really writing about Christmas AGAIN? It seems that I just wrote about last year’s Christmas and here we are with another holiday season coming at us at light speed.

For most families the holidays are filled with laughter, happy tears, hugs and expressions of love. But for many families these days are fraught with fear and anxiety because living with an alcoholic is like living with a time bomb set to explode at an unpredictable time and place. A Christmas party that should be a joyful event often turns into an embarrassing scramble trying to get the drunken spouse out the door after he/she has literally picked up the punch bowl and used it to make an off-color toast. Then there are the helpful friends who attempt to keep the drunk from getting behind the wheel of his car. Even after the alcoholic has left the building, conversations drift toward the realm of “Did you see what Alice did? So glad she left.” Instead of discussing the shopping bargains on toy treasures, everyone is talking about the unfortunate life of the alcoholic’s spouse or the alcoholic.

During the fifteen years I was separated from Riley, my Christmas season was filled with being around family and friends. I dressed up and went to parties and enjoyed the company of others without the worry of what my husband was doing or saying. I enjoyed those fifteen Thanksgivings, Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Someone asked me what was the easiest way to get past the holiday season when you have an alcoholic in the house? I’m not sure there is an easy way to do anything with an alcoholic present. Here are some things that I've done over the years to lessen the stress for the entire family.

Limit the number of holiday events attended with the drunken spouse.  This isn’t too difficult if you just say that there will be no alcohol served at the event. Most times alcoholics only want to go to places where they can drink. So you go alone or you take your kids or you take a non-drinking friend. You will be far more relaxed and able to enjoy this time if you aren’t looking over your shoulder and expecting disaster every minute.

If you have small children, you must be their Santa Claus. It will be up to you to do the “Santa” shopping. If there are toys, such as bicycles, to be assembled do it when the drinking spouse isn’t home. Get out your tool box and follow the directions. When asked who put the bike together, just say that the store assembled it for you. Leave some small item that needs assembling for the spouse to put together in order to avoid a confrontation due to feelings of being left out. This is not the time of year to “make a point” or even open the door to a possible fight. You’ll have lots of time for that after New Year’s Day.

Limit you guest list. Only invite your very closest friends and family to your home. Now is not the time to get to know those new neighbors who just moved in down the street. If anything happens that could be antagonistic or embarrassing, it’s best that it happens among people who know you, love you and understand your situation.

Make up your mind to celebrate and enjoy this time. I often felt that there was nothing about the Christmas holidays that was worth celebrating or joyous in any fashion. But if you look around you there is plenty to celebrate. You managed to survive the year and that in and of itself is cause for celebration. Celebrate the fact that you are loved by someone – anyone – whether that’s your children, siblings, parents, and/or God. Better yet, celebrate the fact that you are capable of loving someone else. Sometimes it is just a matter of BELIEVING you have something to celebrate/enjoy that can make all the difference between hating and loving a holiday.

Find pleasure in the little things. Put those mini-marshmallows in your hot chocolate and to make it even more special, make them the mint flavor with Mexican chocolate. That’s worth celebrating. Listen to your favorite holiday music with your headphones so you can play the same songs over and over again. And, even sing those songs out loud. Add some of your favorite dishes to your holiday dinners even if they are not the proper season for the dish. I like watermelon or cucumber salad and don’t forget strawberry short cake or fried green tomatoes. Not in season, hard to find fresh ingredients – but so worth the money, time and effort.

Make an escape. Even reading a new book can make you feel a bit special. Take a 20 minute break away from everything and escape into another world. If the only way to find the time to do that is to take a bath – fill the tub with bubbles, grab that book and hide out in the bathroom. Of course, if the book is The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife (now out on Amazon.com) – that’s even better because you might see yourself in those pages and find some humor in the chaos.

Most importantly – be happy and have wonderfully peaceful holidays during this 2014 season!

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