Christmas Eve, interrupted…but only briefly

Today I’m feeling sad.  ‘Tis the season, I guess.  I had one of those ugly, tears-and-snot filled meltdowns this morning.  I’m happy that I made it all the way until Christmas Eve to do it this year, but I was really hoping to avoid it completely.  I miss my daughter terribly, and, actually, I even miss the rest of my family.  Except for the last couple of Christmases before I got into recovery, I have wonderful memories of the holidays with them.  It seems that, unlike other dysfunctional families, mine was always on its best behavior on holidays and birthdays.  It was when we let go of disagreements and grudges, and we all came together to have fun and love each other.  There was laughter, good food, and happy times.  And even though, on most days, I know that I am healthier now, emotionally and spiritually, than when they were in my life, I am having trouble believing that today.

My daughter is 17, attending the University of Arizona, and that’s about all I know.  It’s been nearly four years since I have seen her, and even longer since she wanted to talk to me (for the history of our relationship, click here).  This morning, as I held in my hands the ornaments that she and I made together when she was younger, I felt all the memories of holidays past flooding my thoughts.  There just aren’t enough words to express my longing for her sufficiently.  I don’t even begin to know how to describe it, except that it is both emotionally and physically painful.  Today is one of those days that it is really fucking close to unbearable.  My heart hurts, my eyes spill over, completely out of my control, and I can’t shut it off.  I don’t really want to though.  The thought that I will stop hurting over it someday scares me more than the thought of our separation going on forever.  So I sit with the sadness, knowing that until there is reconciliation, it’s better than the alternative.

All of that said though, this holiday season is the best one that I have had in a long time.  I am trying to do what all good recovering alcoholics do when difficult moments come up, I’m remembering all of the things I have to be grateful for, and accepting all of the rest that life has dealt me without trying to change it.  Those two things have made all the difference.  They have allowed me to spend joyful, quality time with friends.  We’ve shared stories, baked for each other, and had lots of laughs.  I am so grateful for that.  I honestly don’t know what I would do without my crazy, supportive, loving friends.  I would truly be lost.

Another thing that has helped so much this year is making new traditions.  Austin and I have done things differently to celebrate this year.  First of all, we shared Thanksgiving with a close friend of ours, at her house.  That was so great!  Thanksgiving (and other holidays) were often celebrated in my home because I did almost all of the cooking.  This year, I only did half of the cooking, and I didn’t have to stress about my house being clean, or about the day feeling off because I was in the same place, but without my family.  That sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it?  When I read it back to myself, I think so.  I’ve lived in the same place for seven years, so my home has been filled with my family many times…this is the same place my daughter lived with me.  But even in the three plus years that they haven’t been here, it still feels weird to not have them around on holidays.   So getting out of the house for Thanksgiving was a big deal.

Austin and I have also been celebrating the month leading up to Christmas differently.  We have been actively honoring Advent, complete with daily devotional readings and our own little Jesse Tree, for which we made all of the ornaments.  We opted to wait until today, Christmas Eve, like they used to long ago, to put up our Christmas tree.  We will celebrate the 12 days of Christmas that lead to Epiphany and not let tomorrow be the climax of the season.  I’ve really enjoyed doing it this way.  It has given new, more fulfilling meaning to this time of year, and it has started completely new traditions for us.  My family would never appreciate Advent, nor would they read the bible together.  While we were growing up, our tree went up the weekend after Thanksgiving and came down on December 26th.  Making these small, but emotionally substantial changes, has been so healing for me.  There has been a shift in my thinking about the meaning of Christmas, and I can now focus on the reason for the holiday without attaching all of my family’s old traditions to it.  That feels good.

Even though I had a meltdown this morning, and I still have the red nose and headache to prove it, I feel grateful today.  We are having a friend over for dinner, and then going to church.  Tomorrow we will go to a morning service at another church, and then head over to the annual Christmas Alcathon to hang with our fellow 12-steppers.  It will be a good day, just like it should be.

I am wishing you and yours a very happy holiday, full of whatever traditions fill your heart with joy!

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Healthy Habit #12 – A month of finding joy

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My last Healthy Habit of the year is finding joy.  I’ve become relatively good at finding and expressing gratitude, but joy is a whole other story.  It isn’t to say that I don’t experience joy often, I do, but I also feel like recognizing joy in the ordinary, or even in the not-so-great times, is something that I completely overlook.  So this month, a month that is filled with to-do lists, shopping, holiday parties, and loads of stress, I am going to focus on finding joy.  Actually, I already have been, since this post is coming 9 days into the month.  Ugh, see?  I’m already exhibiting the stress and busyness!  ‘Tis the season!

The holidays are portrayed as times filled with family, friends, and joy all around.  The truth, though, is that for a lot of us (in and out of recovery), it’s a time filled with anxiety and worry.  For some, spending time with family is challenging.  For those like me, it’s not spending time with family that’s hard, and sad, and depressing.  For those of us that are in recovery, the holiday parties and get-togethers may be uncomfortable because the alcohol is flowing this time of year, but the thought of skipping these soirees leaves us feeling isolated and lonely and boring.  For some of us there may be bad memories of holidays past, or happy memories that we know will never be duplicated.  We may be missing or grieving someone, or celebrating our first holiday without a loved one.  All of these situations are hard, but they don’t have to be absent of joy.

This month I am making a commitment to finding little pieces of joy in the ordinary and difficult times.  Whether it’s taking the time to enjoy a sunrise (I’m a morning person), or reading something that makes me smile instead of making me learn, or listening – really listening – to the sound of my stepson’s laughter.  There is something joyous to be found in each day, we just may need to look a little harder.

JChoose Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude – July 4

 

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Today I feel happy, and thankful.  If you read my blog regularly, then you know that holidays are often difficult for me because I don’t have any contact with my family, including my daughter  (if you are new to Sober Grace, you can read about it here and here).  Today being the 4th of July, there was a possibility that a melancholy mood would strike and leave me down.  This afternoon I did have a few pangs of sadness as I wondered what my family was doing.  When I wasn’t on the outs with them, the Fourth was always a day of grilling and then watching the fireworks together.  It seems like we were all on our best behavior on holidays, and there usually wasn’t any drama – unlike the other days of the year.

Other than those few pangs, though, I have been happy all day.  It’s been another lazy day of reading and spending time with Austin and Benjamin, and I have much to be grateful for:

  • On this day that celebrates freedom, I am so grateful to be free of the slavery that booze held me in for so long, and that feels great.
  • I am grateful for the recent conversations I have had with those closest to me:  my sponsor, my sponsee, and my BFF.
  • I am grateful for a cool (relatively) and overcast day, even though we only got a few sprinkles.
  • I am grateful that my husband has told me that I am beautiful every day this week, even though I’ve been living in Frumpville.
  • I am grateful that we have four plump little puppies to hold, there really are few things better.
  • I am grateful for books and blogs and for having the time this week to read them

I hope that everyone has had a fun, safe, and sober 4th of July and that you, too, have a lot to be thankful for.

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what are you grateful for today

 

The Day After

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Well, I made it through Christmas.  It has been a crazy month, with lots of ups and downs.  I haven’t written for a while, partly because it’s been a busy month, partly because I haven’t felt like it.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I suffered through some days of depression and self-pity.  As you know, I am estranged from my family and typically the holidays are tough times for me.  This one was no different when it comes to that.  But in other ways it was different, better even, than the last few years.

Going into the season I expected to have some sad, reflective days and I thought that there would be times in which I was hard on myself, remembering and reliving the ugly moments when I was drunk and self-absorbed, wishing that I could go back and change them.  Or, at the other end of the spectrum, remembering the happy holidays that I spent with my family.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, that there weren’t as many of those thoughts popping up as I expected.  While I found it hard to get into the Christmas spirit until a few days before, I didn’t spend nearly as much time and energy on negative thoughts as I suspected I would.  And when the thoughts did come up, I was mostly able to just sit with them.  I’m not saying that it was a completely pleasant experience, it wasn’t, believe me.  But as they came up, it was more like watching a movie than being the actor in one.  As the good memories of holidays past came up, I was able to smile and just remember without romanticizing and longing.  I felt a sense of gratitude that I was able to experience good times with my family.  Nothing can take those memories away from me.  When the bad thoughts came up it wasn’t as easy to remain a member of the movie-watching audience, my nature is to jump in as the star of the show.  But I was able to remind myself that those days have already happened and I can’t change their outcome, no matter how much I want to.  That made it easier to handle.  One thing I didn’t do is push the thoughts away.  I know that when I try to do that, it works for a little while, but then it doesn’t.  And when it stops working, the thoughts come back with such an overwhelming vengeance that I don’t have the capacity to handle them.  It’s an ugly mess and I know that’s not good for me.

All of that said, we had a beautiful Christmas.  It started very early – my stepson was up at 4:01 a.m. (I told him that anything before 4:00 a.m. was too early) to open presents and he was so excited.  It was really nice to see Christmas through a child’s eyes again.  Last year I got out of rehab a few days before Christmas, so we didn’t celebrate at all and I didn’t get to see him open any presents.  We had a nice, lazy, lego-filled morning, eating the homemade cinnamon rolls I made, and then headed off for a nap.  It was a relaxing day, I spent all of it in my pajamas, and I was happy.

Until the evening.  That’s when sadness crept in.  I miss my daughter.  A lot.  Even though I miss her every day, special days are harder to handle than the rest.  I spent some time in bed crying and feeling down, remembering holidays in the past and wondering what her Christmas was like this year.  I let the thoughts bounce around and I prayed, with fervor.  My prayers are usually either quiet and thoughtful, or they are more like conversations that I have with God.  The prayers I prayed on Christmas were passionate, emotional, demanding, almost aggressive (it’s ok though, God can handle my aggression).  I don’t know what will happen, but I know that after I prayed that way, I felt better.

So here we are the day after.  It was a nice holiday, but I’m glad that Christmas is over and I am looking forward to seeing what the new year brings.  I hope that all who read this had a wonderful holiday, full of peace and love.

Merry Christmas!