For what it is worth, the main thing I remember (and that helps me) is that Christmas is in reality not so different to the rest of the year (apart from the media hype). As far as stress, loss, and sadness are concerned, that has been there all the time! I am pretty sure it is the same for most families. I have realised that there is no good reason for me to fear Christmas and to feel an increase in these feelings whilst, in actuality, nothing much has changed in my life?
For me, it revolves around not subscribing to unrealistic expectations, beliefs about others and understanding that there are more people who are struggling with exactly the same issues than I ever realised.
From there, I attempt, as much as possible, to take comfort from the knowledge that some can still have what they would see as a perfect Christmas, whilst knowing full well that appearances can be very deceptive and that not all struggles are immediately visible. I hope they are OK. I remember what fun feels like!
The rest of my personal coping comes in the form of attempting to limit the pressure, and associated guilt, of not being able to be all things to all men by accepting that I can only do my best as far as giving, in all its forms, is concerned and by appreciating the people in my life who love me, even if they can drive me to the edge.
Member of Step Together Family Support Group
Addiction has been part of our lives for around 20 years now. Having had many Christmases overshadowed by pain and anguish, the festive period this year looks set to be a time for being grateful for the love we have within our family and for our sons and granddaughter still being with us to share the day.
Over the years Christmas became a time to be endured; our situation was thrown into sharp focus by all the hype-driven by commercialism. If you are on this site you too may have wanted to hunt down the speaker in the supermarket blasting out “Merry Christmas, Everyone” and put a brick through it. No escaping the call to be jolly!
My dad died on Christmas Day 7 years ago. A very strange day. My 2 boys worked together in the kitchen and I came home to a full Christmas Dinner, their gift to me! Our Granddaughter came to stay later in the day. Though I was very sad we chose not to tell her about Papa. We pulled crackers, put the music on and played games. At 96 I knew he would have approved.
The following year my lovely son was in a city centre hostel. He describes now walking along a Christmas-decorated Princes Street; shoppers are laden with parcels or on work nights out passed shoulder to shoulder as he struggled in despair in the grip of his addiction.
Two brief and somewhat diluted encounters with my experience!
We now try to appreciate just being together and try to be less driven by consumerism which has taken over.
We also remember those for whom Christmas is a painful, lonely desert of a day, even in the company at times and giving to those who provide much-needed care and kindness is very much a priority for me.
Our Cafe, 1st Step, will have a free Christmas Lunch and fun-packed family party on 27th December open to the whole recovery community. In the evening our Family Support Group will meet together …maybe finish off the goodies.
Then in January, for the third year, Step Together will have our winter social get together. New Year, a new beginning and a good laugh as we have a few jokers in our midst.
Rosie – Step Together Family Support.
I still remember my childhood memories of a traditional Christmas – nothing particularly special or elaborate but mainly happy times with family and friends. As I grew older my experience and perspective changed but, as a husband and father, I tried to recreate those fond memories for my own children and wider family while trying hard to resist the ever-increasing commercial pressures.
I became more aware of the myth of the “perfect family Christmas” and how my personal experience compared. Maybe our Christmas Day wasn’t ideal but it was a lot better than many other peoples’.
Living with someone who is struggling with their substance use is a daily challenge but on key social/family occasions you feel the pain more acutely. It’s hard not to reflect on what might have been or how you would prefer things to be. But life’s not like that. None of us can be in complete control of how our lives, and those close to us, turn out.
As it happens, I think Christmas day this year will be OK – certainly better than some previous years! But, I will be very aware that many, many people will be glad when the ‘Festive Season’ is all over. Everybody else is NOT at a party!
It’s a time for kindness but, first and foremost, we need to take care of ourselves and try to resist accepting responsibility for other peoples’ happiness.
Colin – Step Together Family Support