Discover more from Love Over Addiction
Why Do We Feel Depressed Around the Holidays?
Worrying about more than just the turkey stuffing.
Last night, I flew from Boston to Savannah with a layover in New York. All three airports displayed beautiful holiday decorations in hopes that we, busy travelers wearing our winter coats, pushing rolling bags, and searching for our gate, would walk by and momentarily think something along the lines of, “Oh, how beautiful. I love this time of year.”
And for most travelers, that loving and thoughtful display might effectively bring up nostalgic joy and hope that we have entered the “most wonderful season of all.” For some of the lucky travelers, miniature sparkly lights on the airport holiday tree momentarily ignite a sparking light within them.
Holiday commercials, displays, and music can be painful reminders that we live differently than most people. We are not only worried about the recipe for stuffing or what gift to give our nephew…
We have real concerns. Thoughts go through our heads like:
How am I going to make sure they stay sober when everyone else is drinking?
What am I going to do with my in-laws when they start their hurtful, enabling, and dysfunctional behavior?
I am hosting the holidays again this year, but no matter how hard I try, it’s never as good as I imagined. My partner always finds a way to sabotage the holidays with their addiction.
If we go to the holiday party, will I have a safe way to get home, or will they insist on driving after a night of consuming?
You don’t want to celebrate with your family. Every time you’re around them, they manage to say something that stings your heart or feels like a punch in the stomach. They don’t understand your life.
So what do people like us do for the holidays? Are we destined to fake it for the next several months, feeling lonely and just waiting for the holiday airport displays to be packed up and put in storage for next year?
The way I see it, we have two choices:
Quit the holidays this year. No shame in not playing the “I love the holidays” game. Years ago, I was trying to muster up the energy to do the whole “come-over-and-eat-turkey-and-pretend-with-me-that-things-are-not-falling-apart-and-oh, don’t-look at-my-husband-on-the-couch-slurring-while-shouting-at-the-tv-about-the-game.” But I was just too dam exhausted to pretend. So I sat on the couch with him, holding my baby in one arm while opening a box of plastic ornaments. I began tossing them onto the tree. Half of them landed on the ground, but who cares? I just didn’t have the strength to pretend that year. Things were not okay, and I gave myself a pass - incapable of faking it that year.
Dig deep and try to have a good holiday. We can identify upfront the things we can control and laser focus on those activities (two key words in that sentence: CAN control). It does not mean our loved ones will “behave,” but two opposing narratives can happen simultaneously. We can be baking cookies, listening to holiday music in our kitchen while our loved ones are drinking at the local bar. We can be sipping hot chocolate watching the Hallmark Channel while our loved one is sitting in their home office watching porn or getting high. Both experiences can exist. We can stay in our “Holiday Season” lane and let them do their thing in their lane.
Obsession about my husband's choices went into overdrive during the holidays, which would ultimately lead me to a period of deep depression. As you know, addiction is unpredictable. You never know if today will bring happiness or hatefulness. I spent so many years wasting time wishing things were different.
Here are some things I would have loveling told myself during the holidays when I was married to someone struggling with addiction:
Don’t give up plans because your partner doesn’t want to do them with you.
Go out if you want to go out.
Stay in if you’d rather not leave the house.
Politely tell the in-laws - I won’t be attending this year.
Bring a baked good from the grocery store instead of making one.
Or, make a baked good.
Decorate or not. Dealers choice.
And for the love, stop hosting, sit down, and rest.
Even though I am divorced, these reminders are still helpful. That’s the interesting thing about struggling with addiction - the social stigma can make us believe addiction is something to be ashamed of, but the truth is - the lessons we are learning are universal and applicable to all - even the steady and sober.
I will spend the next few months writing about the holidays, so if you need encouragement from me or other incredibly wise people in our community + specific tips and strategies, you can subscribe here (it’s free).
You can also find me:
Love Over Addiction Podcast: A free weekly podcast without sponsors or commercials. I’ll share experiences, opinions, and resources and maybe interview with some experts or women in our community. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Audible.
Love Over Addiction Newsletter: (MichelleAnderson.substack.com) Every Friday, you’ll receive an essay via email (this is the same content as the podcast, just in written form - if reading is your thing). It’s also a place where you can comment and gain insight from other women in our community. I will be hanging around the comments, too. Subscribe here. Please keep in mind your name will appear if you comment, so please make up a name or use your first name only if you would like to protect your privacy.
Love Over Addiction Instagram: Not going to lie; my sabbatical from social media was lovely, but I think I’ve figured out some boundaries to help it feel slightly more healthy. Let’s give it a try:) Follow me here.
My Personal Instagram - Michelle Lisa Anderson: Building a community is still my goal, so I must be willing to share my life on social - even if it terrifies me. If you’re curious about my life, you’ll find it here