A Very Grateful Christmas

Glass be grateful

I am trying to switch to an attitude of gratitude for the hardest times in my life. The times that make my heart feel tender when I think about them, whether they happened yesterday or 20 years ago. Because maybe, just maybe, those things happened to teach me something.

I guess I am growing tired of playing the blame game. Everyone has a story. Some are sadder than others, but they all have tender parts. Life is a messy and difficult thing, but it is also crazy and joyous and unexpected and fun (at times…if you let it be). I turned out to be an alcoholic. While some of that has to do with my upbringing, a lot of it has to do with MY choices and MY journey. I ended up here because I needed to be here. Maybe some people are more stubborn than others and it TAKES becoming an alcoholic to get them to wake up. I don’t know. Not everyone gets the chance to learn, break free from denial, and change their lives. I have the opportunity to do so, and that means that I am going to count myself lucky.

This Christmas, I am giving myself and my family the gift of forgiveness through gratitude. Thank you, life, for putting me in the situation that I am in. Thank you for letting me experience the ups and downs that I have been through. Thank you for FINALLY allowing me to break free from drinking myself numb all the time. That is a hard damn thing to do, so feel grateful whether you are sober or trying to get there.

I have more love for myself than I used to, and I am stronger than I thought. So are you. That is something to be grateful for. Merry Christmas.

A Family Disease

I am dealing with the day-to-day minutiae that goes along with being sober as well as a wife, mama, daughter, sister, friend, etc. I wrote the other day, here, about laying awake at night thinking about my family and their problems. It was weird, but my Mom cemented some of those thoughts in my head yesterday evening during a phone call.

We spoke about our plans for the holidays. The dreaded holidays. Everyone’s favorite time of the year to tie one on and cry over their turkey dinner (at least at our family holidays during my later childhood years). Why would I not want to redo those fun times every year, right? I am being sarcastic, but the holidays really are a very hard time for a lot of people. There is so much pressure to have a Pinterest-worthy home, table and decor, loads of fun, togetherness, and bonding… and it just doesn’t work out that way for most people. I am not particularly religious, or into the holidays, and I still feel pressure to make something happen every year. Sometimes I wish I could just lie on a beach and forget all about them. Hmm… goal for next year, perhaps? “Sorry, I’ll be in Bali for the holidays this year.” A girl can dream.

Anyway, my Mom wants to come visit this year to see my son, her only grandson, whom she loves very much. I want them to have a relationship with one another. What I don’t want is for my son to be a part of a dysfunctional environment where unhealthy drinking is the normal thing to do, which it is in my family. This means that we can’t go stay with her. My Mom lives in a relatively small house with my two alcoholic, unemployed brothers. I really don’t want alcohol in my house right now, either. She told me that she doesn’t want to visit if she can’t drink, as she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep at night.

I am really sad about this. Sad that she would choose alcohol over visiting me and her grandson. Sad that she can’t/won’t stop drinking for a week to help me when I really need it.  Sad that she is obviously addicted to alcohol but in total denial about it. Sad that I can’t just say “It’s okay! Come anyway!” and make the problems go away because I am a total people pleaser. Some of these thoughts and feelings aren’t rational, because I know alcoholism is a tricky thing and it’s not personal, but my head and heart are still hurting.

I have realized that part of the reason I kept drinking for so long was that I didn’t know how to do things any differently. Quitting meant having to deal not only with my personal problems, but also with the alcohol problems of my family. “Alcoholism is a disease of the family” makes more sense to me now. I don’t want to make excuses for my drinking, and I understand that it is my responsibility to care for my sobriety. I just hate that I have to hurt my family… even if it helps them in the end. It is a painful thing to do. I know that my Mom doesn’t see herself the way that she is behaving right now, and it breaks my heart. I am so tired of having my heart broken by alcohol. It has happened far too many times over the years.

My plan is to create and keep boundaries for the holidays. Absolutely no drinking in my house. Visitors can stay elsewhere and drink the night away, but will respect my home, as it is my safe place. If we visit those with a drinking problem, we will stay in a hotel and the visits will be cut short once drinking begins. I don’t know how else to handle it, and I am not going to stress and lose my sobriety over other people’s problems.

How do you handle difficult family situations, if you have them? Is Al-Anon helpful? I am thinking I might go to a meeting and check it out.