Are you dreading the Holidays?
Once again the holiday season is upon us and there is a great deal of social pressure to be “happy,” to be contentedly surrounded by family in cozy scenes of sipping egg nog while singing songs and decorating. Or, we are supposed to be energetically stressed as we shop for just that right thing for everyone on our gift list.
But when you have family with alcohol or drug problems, the beginning of the holiday season can present you with debilitating stress, depression or melancholy because those happy scenes are not at all what your holiday will look like.
How can you cope?
Here, we present you with a three tiered plan: Awareness – Acceptance – Action. Learn how to put these three steps into your winter celebrations and make the most out of the Holidays in an addicted home.
The problem isn’t the family…
The problem is we all want that lovely picture. Part of what contributes to our unhappiness is not the family we actually have but the desire to have something different, the grief at not getting what we want, and the lack of acceptance. In other words the problem isn’t our family, it isn’t the individual with the alcohol/drug problem, the problem is us.
That sounds unkind and unsympathetic. I know that. But acknowledging our part in how we experience the Holidays is actually the first best step in having Holidays that you can really enjoy.
It’s not about chasing the Holiday Dream
Growing up in an addicted home I always wanted that pretty family picture, and I would do everything I thought you were supposed to in order to get it. I bought special gifts with money I saved,. I wrapped beautiful packages and helped decorate everything in the house just so. And then things that I could not control would happen as they always did and things would get ugly ending with a big family fight, me in tears, and the sense again that if only I had done something else it would have been great.
I have been chasing this holiday dream for most of my life, and even as an adult I feel that disappointment knowing that for as lovely as things are today they aren’t really what I always wanted and I’m not ever going to get that.
Holidays with happiness: 3 steps to create contenment
So how can you create a holiday season that allows you the happiness you deserve while creating contentment with the situation as it is. Awareness – Acceptance – Action.
STEP 1: Awareness
Start with Awareness: What is the situation, who are the people with problems, what really happens every year when the family gets together? Step out of being a participant and instead act like a neutral observer. Write down the observations so you can see exactly what the situation is without your participation.
STEP 2: Acceptance
Once you know what the family picture is you have to move to Acceptance and this is often the most difficult. We resist accepting what we don’t like but then the situation just endlessly repeats. Acceptance is the only way we allow ourselves to move forward. Coming to acceptance may involve allowing yourself to grieve, it may mean acknowledging deep disappointment, it may bring up anger or all of these things and more.
STEP 3: Action
Once you accept the reality of the situation you can act to make affirmative choices that can bring you happiness even if you can’t have exactly what you may have wanted. If you know that the family party always devolves into a drunken fight two hours into the visit you can leave after an hour. If you know that the meal is always an hour late because of drinking for too long early in the day you can arrive late and avoid the additional stress. Maybe you decide to make alternate arrangements entirely. Whatever your choice of action, either to participate knowing what the picture looks like or making alternate plans it doesn’t mean you won’t feel sad, or hurt, or disappointed.
Emotional freedom = True happiness!
The loss of a wanted experience doesn’t go away, but awareness does let you take affirmative action to care for yourself and get some of what you need. The acceptance that comes in making a choice to “change your circumstances, or change your expectations,” provides a great deal of emotional freedom that can give you a truly happy holiday!