Surviving the Holidays
I am surviving the holidays. It is simply what I do now. I know that eventually, it won’t feel like the holidays are another level of hell, but that will take years. And this year is not that year.
I used to love the holidays. Well, alcoholic me, more commonly known as the Before Times Me, loved the holidays. It was an excuse to drink for days, and it was acceptable to do so. Was I stressed? Yes. Was I miserable? Yes. But I had alcohol as my constant companion to numb me from the chaos and misery.
Now the holidays are simply something I have to “get through.” Even three years into sobriety and four years of therapy under my belt, the holidays are still the most challenging time of the year. And it isn’t just my sobriety that makes the holidays really difficult.
No Boundaries for You!
It seems that the holidays are the time of year when people expect you not to have any boundaries. Don’t get me wrong; I think people don’t want me to have boundaries throughout the year, but it seems to get worse around the holidays.
The holidays seem to increase that pressure. Or maybe there becomes a focus of that pressure to be all to everyone except yourself. Either way, the holidays increase the pressure on doing ALL THE THINGS no matter what.
I think we all are holding ourselves to a higher standard of something that doesn’t exist. That is what I see year after year. Isn’t that what trying to be ALL THE THINGS really is? It’s attaining the unattainable.
Surviving the holidays doesn’t have to be the only way you get through the next couple of months. There is another way. I engaged in therapy to understand and work through what I could do. And you can too.
I recommend Online-Therapy.* Encouraging therapy is their first step in healing.
We Are Great!
The holidays are a mandatory gathering for the sake of…gathering? I certainly don’t see any way to have anything meaningful in the holidays’ chaos. Instead, I see a dog and pony show so others know your family is normal. Nothing to see here, people; we look just like the families in the commercials. Look how we all get together and make merry!
Then as soon as the mandatory holiday fun is over, the family members scatter back from whence they came. They don’t get together, and they don’t communicate with each other until the next holiday. But they have the holiday family photos to show their friends and family everything is right within their family unit. Check that box. Next!
Yeah, you might be fooling some people, but not this person. I can smell desperation for normalcy from a long way off. It’s a stinky cover-up that reeks of falsehoods. And you know something? Your family is no different from any other family. We all have generational trauma, and we all have a level of dysfunction and abuse going on in our families. So it’s true whether you want to admit it or not.
Survive the Holidays
I spent my life, up until eighteen, living within a family that dealt in lies. Everything was a cover-up to protect the abusers. In every photo, a shadow lingered over the people there. My parents manipulated everyone around us to project an image of a normal, happy family when we were anything but.
I dealt with falsehoods most of my life because I had to. I am not kidding. I had to. It was a survival tactic to perpetuate the false facade. And I no longer want to do that. I am so tired. And as the saying goes, I am tired of being tired.
What does this mean? An airing of the grievances like in the Seinfeld episode? When the family’s dirty laundry is aired and most likely, feelings are hurt, and people get upset. Not necessarily. I don’t think any good ever comes out of bombarding people with your issues with them in front of an audience of the family. It works in Hollywood movies but rarely in real life.
So What? Now What?
Yay, me, so I have a superpower to see the truth hiding behind the facade. So, what. It only serves to harm me emotionally. I can’t do anything with the knowledge I have. It’s like a higher powers sick joke. I will give you the ability to see through people’s bullshit. What can you do with that? Nothing! (laughter ensues)
You can’t change other people. I can’t change other people. The only person I can change is myself. So what does that mean, for me, as a person who wants to move beyond surviving the holidays?
I start with the following questions:
- What do I want to do?
- How do I want to show up for myself during these gatherings?
- How am I able to show up for others during these gatherings?
- What are some areas that I am willing to negotiate on?
Answering these questions is harder than you think. As soon as I start thinking about the answers, my brain reminds me of what my hubs wants or other people’s expectations. So I must shove that shit aside and really focus on me. And that is not a place I am used to being.
Share Your Wants & Needs
Okay, here is the part that is almost impossible for me to do, sharing what I need and want. Because once I figure it out, if I don’t share it, it doesn’t exist in the real world. No one can help you with the stuff you keep inside your head. So says the person who keeps almost everything inside her head. But hey, do what I say, not as I do? Nah, that is crap advice too.
I did share what I wanted and needed for this holiday season. I had to because I no longer want to live in survival mode around the holidays or otherwise. And it wasn’t easy. It was tough not to instantly retract my statements when the reaction was frustration mixed with a dash of anger.
But I didn’t retract what I needed. Instead, I put it out into the world and watched and waited for the response, which was better than I expected. Eventually, we came to a mutually agreed-upon solution. For this year, anyway. Baby steps, but it’s progress.