If you know me, you know I have always proudly said, “I hate Christmas.” Because of my horrible childhood, I had no positive memories to associate with the holidays so of course, I grew to dislike this time of year with a vehement passion. Finally, things are different- for the first Christmas in nearly 30 years, I am not drinking and that has changed everything.
I could recount all the reasons why I
think thought (still getting used to this!) Christmas is stupid because this is my blog and I can write whatever the heck I want but in the spirit of Christmas and in the spirit of the title of this post, I won’t. I’ll just skim the holly boughed surface a bit…
Growing up Catholic, Christmas was more like a subpoena than an event to look forward to. Lots of baking and lots of church-going in crispy velvet outfits lined with musty smelling faux fur and white lace trimmed socks neatly folded at the ankle. As a child, I never got any gifts I actually wanted and had no idea why Santa only put underwear and socks under the tree when I had specifically asked for a Cabbage Patch Kid, Spirograph, and Peaches n’ Cream Barbie. Like, WTH Santa?!
Somewhere along the way of elementary school I began to put the clues together to understand why this “Santa” “person” was consistently not doing his job. No wonder all my presents sucked.
Once I became a parent, I thought things would change- wonder through children’s eyes and yada yada- yet I still didn’t like Christmas. Things changed as a mom but not in the way I thought they would. Holy mother of night, Christmas became SO MUCH WORK and SO MUCH MONEY! Even when they were babies, I dressed my kids festively and made sure they had tons of impeccably wrapped presents and full-to-the-brim stockings on top of all the cooking and gifting and socializing for and with the other people in my life. Christmas became just… hard.
Day 342 as I type and this year marks my first sober Christmas in roughly 30 years. And for the first time, in also roughly 30 years, I am totally on top of things! My Christmas shopping was done last month, I finished wrapping the presents a couple weeks ago, all groceries have been acquired, I got new holiday outfits for the entire family (dog included), and I even had it in me to make twelve loafs of cranberry orange bread for gifting! Go me!!!
While a lot of this efficiency is due to being unemployed, a lot of it also has to do with being mindful and present. Taking the time to slow down and breathe it all in has shown me the joy this season holds and what the heck do you know? Christmas isn’t that bad after all! I know all the songs, I love all the food, I enjoy decorating my house, self, kids and dog, and I nearly forgot how much I love giving.
Drinking Laura thought she had all the time in the world even though alcohol took more time than it gave. Drinking Laura thought happiness was found in feeling tipsy even though I always felt horrible the next day. Drinking Laura got so drunk on more than a few Christmas Eves that I yelled at my kids when putting out Santa’s milk and cookies, sending them off to bed crying and those regrettable moments will haunt me for the rest of my life. Add all this plus the childhood baggage and you just might hate Christmas too.
Now that my children are nearly off to college, I realize that there aren’t too many more Christmases like this where we do it all for them because our love compels us to. Watching my littles open presents Christmas morning is one of the best feelings there is- comfort, love, pride, and happiness all wrapped in tacky red/green flannel matching pajamas. It’s truly The Best.
I am more than grateful for my sobriety and for the gift that is just being alive and able to wake up each morning to people that I love and love me right back. Before, I was always chasing something else. Running after some sort of ideal where drinking was the primary focus. Chipping that away has revealed the true beauty that lay behind that ethanol-infused haze: life. The hurdles and setbacks included- we are lucky to have the privilege to complain, we are even luckier to have the choice to change.
It is completely okay to let go of things, traits, and even relationships that no longer serve us and isn’t that actually what the Christmas season is all about? Reflection on the past year without judgment and celebration of the exciting and unforeseen changes each new year brings, all within a mutual spirit of commemoration and sharing: what an epically magnificent thing! This is the marrow, this is why I want to slow time down and eek out all that I can from this Christmas- from every day for that matter!
Enjoy every damn bit of the holiday, dear friends. Be safe. Love everyone. Breathe it all in. Stay in awe.