by Nada L. (Family Program)
The holiday season can be stressful for anyone. My reality was that the otherwise typical stress of the holidays was combined with the reality of alcoholism thrown into the mix. It sure made for a level of holiday stress that I wonder still to this day how I managed to live through for years.
Sure, there were moments of joy during the holidays while my husband was drinking. And when I look back through rose-coloured glasses, that’s what I remember. But when I faced the truth, without all the denial I lived with for so many years, I can now plainly see the pain, confusion, anger and disappointment that was very present throughout our Christmas celebrations of the past.
The holidays were usually times of hope, followed by fear and finally often resulting in shattered expectations. Looking back now I didn’t even realize how damaging my own coping mechanisms were, both to me and to my husband. I would try very hard to convince myself that everything was okay. I was very good at hiding my feelings and emotional state from family and friends. In fact I hid the BIG secret of his alcoholism extremely well for a very long time. For years I wore a mask and I am amazed at how successful I was at bottling everything up so well. Now I know that was simply denial.
Then came recovery. What does that mean for a family member? When my husband found sobriety and entered recovery, I thought that was the final long-awaited destination that any alcoholic’s family so desperately wishes for. I believed as long as he stayed sober, all would be well. The work was his and his alone. Little did I know that it was only the beginning of what is an ongoing journey for both of us.
What I have discovered is that recovery is just as important for me as it is for him. I am an equally important piece in the puzzle that is our family, so my state of mind, health and well-being affects the whole family dynamic. I’ve learned so much in my journey so far and I continue to learn and grow. I’ve come to realize what it really means to take care of myself and be a stronger wife and mother and an independent person apart from the horrible disease that controlled my life for so long.
The last couple of years have been immensely rewarding but also quite trying. I had no idea how much work would be required of me.
I have learned that recovery is something that I need to work on for myself, apart from my husband. I’ve learned what detachment really means. I’ve had to pull apart and evaluate all my beliefs and values. I’ve had to grasp the concept of self-care and embrace it without guilt. I’ve examined so many elements of my life that have sometimes been painful but I realize that the only way over to the other side — a more peaceful and fulfilling life — is to just take one step at a time through all the muck.
This holiday season more than any other before, I feel a deep sense of gratitude. I have so much to be thankful for. Our family is together. My husband is continuing in his recovery, growing and becoming a better husband and father every day. My children are happy and healthy. They are my biggest blessing and give meaning to my life.
Perhaps the silver lining in all of this is that I don’t take any of it for granted. I start and end each day very aware and deeply grateful for all the blessings in my life — because today is a much better day than yesterday and tomorrow will bring more blessings and joy.