Episode 116: Six Ways To Avoid Another Holiday Full of Drama
I know that we’re in the middle of the holiday season, and for a lot of us, this time of year can be really difficult, can’t it? The holidays can bring on drama from addiction that’s not easy to deal with.
Particularly when we’re driving along in our car, or pushing our cart down the aisle at the grocery store and a Christmas carol comes on, such as, “It’s a holly, jolly Christmas – the best time of the year.”
But the truth is, it might not be the best time of the year for you if you love someone suffering from addiction. You might be worried. You might be feeling depressed. You might be feeling anxious your loved one is not going to be sober this holiday season.
Or, maybe they’ve quit drinking or using drugs, but they’re still behaving really, really mean. You thought if they just got sober – everything would be better – but it’s far from better.
The truth is – instead of feeling “holly and jolly,” you’re going into the holidays walking on eggshells, not knowing what to expect.
I can relate sister.
I could not wait for the holiday season to be over so that we could go back to a regular routine where I knew what to expect. He would go to work, I would take care of the kids, and even though there were drinking and drugs, it was more predictable than the holidays, and I wasn’t feeling bad for feeling bad.
But, there is good news (because I refuse to think addiction needs to be dark and depressing all the time).
I am going to teach you six ways you can feel in control during the holidays.
So the next time that you hear holiday music, you’ll be dancing along. You will be turning up the volume and singing the words out loud while thinking, “Yeah, this IS a joyful season.”
And the best part? You’re going to be able to feel this way if they decide to get sober or not and whether they’re acting out or not.
You’re going to be in control of your holidays.
One of the things that I feel really passionate about is that I don’t believe you’re powerless over this disease. I do not subscribe to that theory. You are in complete control. There are many things that you can do to get healthy and to recover from loving someone that suffers from this disease.
So, are you ready to dive in?
Tip #1 – Force yourself to make a list of 10 things you like to do during the holidays.
As soon as you finish reading this, I want you to grab a pen and a piece of paper. It doesn’t matter if you write on the back of a receipt. I want you to make a list of 10 things that you like to do during the holidays.
Let me give you some examples. It could be baking cookies. Putting up holiday lights. Decorating the Christmas tree, or buying fancy gift wrapping.
I remember my mom turned one of the rooms in her house into a gift wrapping room. She would buy all this beautiful paper with matching bows, and spend tons of time wrapping gifts in her newly converted “wrapping room.” She loved to lock the door, put on some holiday music and get creative. Maybe you’re like my mom, and you enjoy doing that as well.
So Tip #1, make a list of 10 things that you enjoy to do during the holidays.
I want you to take out your calendar, whether it’s on your phone, or you have a physical calendar. And I want you to make time to schedule one of those things every day. Scheduling gives yourself something to look forward to.
When you first wake up in the morning, you can say, “Oh, today is the day that I bake cookies,” or “I’m doing the holiday lights,” or “I’m going to decorate the tree,” or “I’m going to go Christmas shopping.” You’re giving yourself an hour or two of joy each and every day.
And here’s the deal. You can’t cross it out, meaning you can’t erase it. You can’t reschedule and move it to another day. If it’s in your calendar, this is a non-negotiable. Okay? You have to promise me that you’re going to follow through. It’s a little gift for yourself.
Tip #2 – You are going to make plans to do things without your partner.
What do I mean by this? A lot of women in our community talk about how they have plans to go to a holiday party, and they get all dressed up. They wear perfume, do their hair, and get really excited to leave. Then they grab their coat and purse, and their spouse (who is usually laying on the couch) has absolutely zero intention of going.
The women in our community who have experienced this usually don’t want to go because they feel embarrassed. So they stay home and feel resentful and angry.
Well, we are going to stop that. This year, you’re going to make plans and promise yourself that you’re going to go without them.
You can invite them along, but I want you to drop your expectations that they will go with you even if they say they will.
I want you to tell yourself, “if they don’t come with me, that’s okay, because I’m still going to leave, and I’m going to have fun with, or without them.”
Five minutes of fun at an event is so much better than spending the entire night stuck at home miserable and disappointed, feeling mad and angry because the one you love refused to go. Force yourself out that door, even if they are not coming like they said they would.
Tip #3 – I want you to step outside of your pain.
I know this disease can be all-encompassing because our pain is real. It deserves to be heard and felt, so I’m not downplaying our feelings. But I want you to step outside of fear and pain for an afternoon – just for one day – and serve someone else.
One of the things I love to do with my kids during the holidays is volunteer at a soup kitchen. It helps me remember that no matter how bad my situation is, particularly when I was with someone who suffered from addiction, there are people out there that have no family, no children, no friends, no home and are far worse off than me.
They can’t even afford a Christmas present, let alone a Christmas tree. They don’t have a big turkey in their home like I do. They don’t have warmth or a pantry full of food or a closet filled with clean, washed clothing.
It helps remind me, I have so many things to be grateful for, despite the fact that addiction is a huge part of my life.
There are lots of nonprofits that are always looking for volunteers. You can Google ‘volunteer opportunities’ or visit www.volunteermatch.org to find places in your area. It’s a great thing to get your kids involved in, as well.
My kids loved serving Thanksgiving dinner and turkey to men who were in rehab. These gentlemen were living for free at a local rehab. In order to stay there, they had to remain sober and pass drug tests.
Serving newly sober men was one of the most moving, wonderful holidays we’ve ever had.
Even though my children could be angry with their father who is suffering from this disease, it was humbling for them to see real men and women trying to get their life together. Fighting for their sobriety. These heroes deserve our attention, love, and care.
Tip #4 – I want you to consider the idea of leaving.
Alright, this might be right for some of you and not be right for others. Now, before you get triggered, I don’t mean permanently leaving. Just think about the idea to make plans and take that vacation that you’ve been thinking about. Consider packing your bags, with your kids, getting in the car, maybe rent a cozy cabin in the woods, and celebrating the holidays in a safe and sober environment that’s a lot more predictable than home.
Or, maybe your kids are grown, and they’re out of the house, and you’ve always wanted to go on this particular cruise and have a girlfriend who’s willing to go with you.
It is completely acceptable and okay for you to leave during the holidays. There’s no rule saying that you need to stay home.
My family and I go away every Thanksgiving because I found myself getting really stressed about hosting everyone for Thanksgiving. So, we take off for the week, and it is the best thing ever. We go to Europe where they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so we don’t feel like we’re missing out too much. And that has been so empowering for me to say, “You know what, I’m not going to do the work this year. I’m going to check out. I’m going to phone it in and go somewhere else.” So, consider that an option if you are in the place to be able to afford it. If you can’t, maybe you can stay with some family for free (we did that for several years too.)
Tip #5 – This step is key. Don’t invite people over to your home.
You guys, this is going to stretch some of you. And it was kind of piggybacking on what I just said.
How many years in a row did I invite my family and friends over for the holidays while I was in love with somebody suffering from this disease only to be humiliated and completely enraged when I worked so hard in the kitchen? I was trying to entertain everybody and take care of the kids, and I would look over, and there he was getting drunk on the couch watching football. It didn’t work so well for him or me, or most importantly, for my guests and my family. It made everyone feel kind of awkward and uncomfortable.
Don’t put yourself in that position. The truth is, you love someone who is struggling, and most of them struggle during the holidays. So rather than begging and pleading and being disappointed when they don’t follow through with their sobriety, just don’t invite people over to your house this year. Take somebody up on their invitation, and go with or without your partner.
Tip #6 – Say NO, with a capital N and a capital O, to events that you don’t want to attend.
I feel like every woman can benefit from this tip, not just women who love someone suffering from addiction because most of us say yes. We say yes to events that we really, really don’t want to go to. Or, maybe we get invited to an event where we have to buy a new dress. And right now we can’t afford a new dress, so it’s not even financially in our best interest to attend.
Say no. If somebody asks you to attend something, and you genuinely don’t feel like it’s an instant yes, then this year, I want you to give yourself permission to say, politely, “No thank you.” And here’s the deal. You don’t need to give them a reason why. You can just say, “Oh, thank you so much for the invitation, but I’m going to have to pass this year, but definitely keep me in mind next year,” if that’s true. If it’s not true, then you don’t have to add that last part. Maybe you don’t want to be considered for this event next year.
In other words, part of our growth is learning to get comfortable with saying “no, thank you.” And doing what is in your best interest.
Take care of yourself this holiday season. Usually, we walk around feeling so empty because we are giving, giving, giving all of ourselves away, trying to attempt to get someone sober. This is your opportunity to learn to protect yourself, your heart, your time, your values and your morals to take control over your choices.
If you’re protecting yourself, you are serving other people around you way better than if you’re running on empty feeling drained.
These six tips are meant to serve you so that you can be a good role model for those around you. Have the courage, because it does take courage to follow through with these. I know they’re not easy. I know they are difficult asks, but you can do it. I absolutely know, with 100% certainty that if you are reading this, that you can follow through with any one of these tips. You are a lot stronger and more courageous than you think you are.
You know I am cheering you on. I’m here for you every step of the way. And I completely believe in you, and your future. I know that you can look back on this holiday season when the dust has settled, and everything is put back into boxes, and think back and say, “I am really, really proud of the way that I behaved. I am proud that this holiday season, I made difficult choices, from a place of courage, that honored my soul.” I know that you can do that, and I cannot wait to hear about it inside our Secret Facebook groups.
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