Ghosts of Christmas Past

Christmas? Bah Humbug! It wasn’t too long ago when I was desperately trying to shut out the world and its inconsiderate ‘tis the season to be jolly’ intrusion. With my eldest son spinning out of control, active again in his addiction and my youngest just getting warmed up – I could feel the perfect storm brewing.

That day quickly turned to night and with it, my son’s charming agitation escalated to those in his path from not having his hourly fix. The drama that ensued that evening including but not limited to: threatening phone calls to my son from a drug pick-up gone bad, (his bad) and threats of baseball bats and gang members.  Did I mention this was Christmas?

Not to be outdone by the gifts from their father, my former spouse, who gave T-shirts to each of them. The first one read; I believe in drug testing…which one shall we test tonight. The other is a must-have, (especially if you’re an addict and one parent is in denial) of Legendary Bob Marley – with a large Marijuana leaf as the backdrop. 

That night I slept clutching my wallet and car keys. Ok… I didn’t sleep. I could go on and on with my war stories and evoke feelings of sympathy, which I detest, but will gladly accept empathy for my journey as a single mother of two magnificent sons. The point is we all have our horrific war stories – this is our common denominator.

Raising children living with addiction and alcoholism is one thing. Getting through the holidays is another. You may have a child MIA on a drug binge, incarcerated or he may simply be in need of an exorcism. As if there is anything simple about an exorcism. Let me know, I have a good priest with references. 

The cultural emphasis on family and children at Christmas can be a painful reminder of what our family life is missing. We are constantly told not to isolate. I’m here to tell you its okay to be alone, for a while. This pain is what I call our ‘deepest soul’s anguish’. We must be allowed to grieve in private. It’s a natural part of our healing process. It’s when the isolation becomes out of balance that we run into dangerous territory.

The following are a few suggestions for how to navigate through this minefield of a joyous time:

1) If you are not getting together with family for the holidays, make plans with a few good friends to do something. A movie is a great way to spend time without having to focus on our sadness. You have permission to give yourself a break from your heartache. Grieving should not be a full time job!

2) If you are getting together with family, definitely make plans with friends to aid in your recovery. A movie and chocolate is mandatory.

3) If you are having a ‘gift exchange’ with your addict or alcoholic still living at home, please remember there is no such thing. It’s a one way street. Gift cards are an excellent way to show love… NOT cash!

4) Do not let guilt play a role in your gift purchases. It’s so easy to feel guilty for what our children do not have or appear to need. Most of us have given 100 times more than what we should have during the remaining eleven months out of the year.  Spend the money on maintaining your sanity and go for a Spa Treatment.

5) Last but not least, if your child or loved one accuses you of being selfish and only thinking of yourself, Congratulations my friend you’re learning to take care of you!

The other day I received a very abrupt voicemail from my eldest son asking me to call him back at a number that was not his. My heart raced and the first question to him was, “Are you in jail?” We laughed so hard because he knew I would think that. He’s such a comedian. He merely bought himself a new phone and wanted me to have the number. It is only because of the Ghosts of my Christmas Past that I am able to see the gift in my son’s phone call.

My growth has allowed him to do for himself what no one else should do for him. Therefore allowing him to experience a sense of personal accomplishment and reducing his feeling of the need to be rescued. This progress is of course not without several exorcisms! May the Ghosts of Christmas Past serve you well in your present day and remind you of how far you’ve come.

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    December 23, 2009 at 9:27 PM

    Thanks so much for your post.
    It brings back memories of when I was a young adult. I thought I was good at hiding my use, all perfect on the outside. Visine to hide the red eyes, gum and cologne to hide the smell of booze.
    little did I know I was only fooling myself.

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