Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Holiday Madness

Before I got sober, I had no idea there was any other way to move through the holidays without feeling completely overwhelmed, anxious and in the throws of chaos.

My life is different today.  Much different.  Years ago, my husband and I made some choices about how we’d spend the holidays and have held firm to these boundaries in order to stay sane.  I had to awaken to the fact that I spent a significant amount of time fretting about how to make others happy by creating the “perfect” holiday while internally hiding the fact that I was miserable.

It wasn’t always that way.  I have fond memories from childhood, but no matter how hard I try, those days can’t ever be recreated.  As I got older, those feelings of misery grew and most likely were validation for drinking and trying to hide the fact I hadn’t been eating.  Today I realize feeling miserable is not the intention of the season, nor do I need to consistently put myself there.  I have choices that do not include numbing myself in order to escape reality.

We don’t have our own children but we do have a rather large extended family.  Each year I tell myself to take it easy, start early and let the holidays flow.  I honestly don’t know what “easier” means, nor do I know what time of year “earlier” is,  but I somehow seem to believe both will one day spring forth in my head.

Although I’m a recovering perfectionist, I still get out my pen and paper to make a list.  Now, who do you think is the one who searches to hopefully find that “just right” gift for him/her, runs from store to store (or taps away late night shopping the net), boxes up little gifts here and mails out cards there?  One guess and it’s not my husband.

It never fails, eventually I’m surrounded with wrapping paper and watching the clock tick closer to the end of post office hours.  Here again would be a perfect excuse to take a drink and/or run out the door without eating to get it all done.  But by the grace of God, today that’s not a consideration.  Today I know that would only lead to complete destruction.

I suppose subconsciously I knew what was behind all this self-imposed holiday stress.  I probably talked about it in the rooms of recovery with other like-minded people, but it wasn’t until I read an excerpt from friend’s email this morning that it all came together. In the message, it pointed out what may have caused me to feel this way in general for a good portion of my life.

No matter how much I try to mirror what all the TV commercials, storefront windows and holiday music reflect as a perfect holiday, it won’t happen.  It’s an illusion.  It’s an illusion created cumulatively in my own head.  It really doesn’t matter if I buy just the right gift, trim the tree in just the right way or act like Ebenezer Scrooge after being visited by three ghosts, holiday perfection remains a fantasy.  It can’t be created.

What I can do is to consistently act, react and live as I do every other day of the year.  I try to face each day with acceptance of what is right in front of me.  I try not to twist and turn my life around in order to change it, I just need to try living alongside it.

The holiday season isn’t something to be manipulated.  The holidays are a time to wrap not only gifts, but to wrap myself around what’s important in life.  I never appreciated this when I was drunk and underfed.  I didn’t feel anything.  I didn’t want to.  Today I do and that trumps rushing through those post office doors anytime.


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