Nearly thirty years ago, I found a button in a novelty store in San Francisco.
I had recently lost 100 pounds – and given up drinking, as well – and this button read, “Eat, Drink and Be a Big Fat Drunk.” While I believe it is an important goal in life to avoid offending others, I wore it with pride for many years. Every holiday season for well over a decade, to be precise.
The button cracked me up for a number of reasons.
Mostly because it embodied humor AND a sense of personal responsibility, which was something that I deeply related to both then and now. But it was also a reminder to me about where I’d come from… and where I never wanted to be again.
In addition to suffering from food addiction, I had been a practicing alcoholic since high school.
I began excessively drinking when I was in 7th grade and, like most addicts, I felt that alcohol freed me from my pain. It did this for me in a way that food never could, and it empowered me to do crazy and often destructive things I never would have done otherwise.
It was also killing me, inside and out.
I was out of control, in so much pain from a childhood filled with abusive and hateful messages from my father. I realized early on that I was a full-blown addict – I just didn’t know how to heal… or even IF I could heal. Excessive eating and alcohol consumption destroyed my self-esteem, helped me hide from who I was, and got me into two car accidents before I finally got sober. Thankfully I survived, and without hurting anyone.
It all changed when I met Stephanie.
She penetrated my heart. She believed in me. And she told me that she wanted to help me heal. Stephanie was the only one who made me think that maybe, just maybe, it was possible. With her support, and a process of healing based in forgiveness, I was able to stop acting out with alcohol, food, and other addictions.
I was also able to release 100 pounds for life, and regain my self-esteem.
The holidays are a time of year when so many of us act out with food or alcohol, or engage in shop-’til-we-drop “therapy.” Whatever the avenue we take, the driving force is the same: hoping to escape the pain of being with family or of feeling alone – or for some… of being alone with family.
I can say from experience, though: it does not have to be that way.
You can “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” in moderation, and you can learn how to manage those feelings that you would rather suppress, forget, or numb. Let’s face it. Many people still choose to check out, and replace the “Merry” with “a Big Fat (and I will add Unhappy) Drunk…?”
You’re an adult – the choice is yours.
You don’t have to cave in to what others want for (or expect from) you.
You don’t have to give people what they think they need from you.
And you don’t have to allow old habits to settle in, make themselves at home, and literally drive you to drink (or eat).
You can do whatever you want around the holidays.
This is your life, and there is nothing that says you have to uphold any obligations to others if those obligations are hurting you.
Quite simply, anything that isn’t building you up… is definitely tearing you down.
And don’t think that you’ve got to “go big or go home.”
Holiday get-togethers can be stressful and put pressure on you to eat or drink more than you’d like. Remember that you have the option take people, places, and even the holidays themselves in small doses. You can arrive late and leave early – this allows you to enjoy the company of your Great Aunt May and your brother-in-law George for a short while, but leave before the fur starts flying.
Be sure to prepare an exit ahead of time with a few well-placed sentences to the host, such as “Hey Mom, I can’t wait to see you on Christmas / for Hanukkah, and I want to remind you that I’ll need to leave early tonight.”
A great exit strategy will ultimately serve everyone.
When you understand and respect your limits – both physically and emotionally – not only do you enjoy yourself more, but you are also more enjoyable to be around. On the flip side, if you spend time where you do not feel safe or comfortable, you are setting yourself up for detrimental circumstances and unhealthy choices.
The bottom line is this: the holidays aren’t easy.
They are loaded with “fairytale” expectations. You know the kind: the visions of sugar plums and brightly-wrapped presents and rosy cheeks that we’re bombarded with from childhood. And we struggle, year after year, when that fairytale doesn’t materialize.
We wonder if we’re doing it wrong.
I’m here to assure you that you aren’t. Building a celebration around what works for you and your needs is perfectly okay. It’s MORE than okay – it’s necessary! And it just might be the key that keeps you solidly centered on being merry… instead of a big fat drunk.
If you have questions about how to create this “personal celebration,” feel free to sign up for a complimentary discovery session with me.
(Jump on this offer now, because in 2018 they will no longer be complimentary!)