Dishes are done, plants have been watered. Peggy Lee is keeping me company until the girls arrive. I've made progress in my Breaking Addiction book which is what I want to write about (I normally think of logs as talking about things) but today feels like a writing day. Don't ask me how I make that distinction, I'm not sure I really want to go to that place in my head. What I was going to write about has been partially derailed by a call from my sister. Her plan is to assign each member of the family someone else to buy presents for and that doesn't sit well with me. Years ago we tried this, in the past everyone bought for everyone, the gifts were nominally priced, it was the thought that really counted. But my family likes to talk about how they don't have money and everything is so expensive and they can't afford to buy other people presents. These things are obscuring the real truth. Everyone in my family has enough money to show up at the family Christmas gathering with a gift for everyone because my family doesn't care about the price tags. They really don't. That year I spoke about was the year I stuck to the plan and everyone else bought presents for everyone else including me. So this gets to the real heart of the issue which is trust. I have no faith that my family will stick to this plan because we've tried it in the past, and I don't trust these people to do what they say they're going to since that hasn't been my experience with them.
This is how I would like the Christmas discussion to go in my family. Person A realizes that Christmas is coming again this year, just like it does every year. They put out the alarm and suggest a family meeting or conference call. At a time that works for people we get together or phone in and everyone states their preference. Then we go through the preferences and start negotiating and compromising. Two of my sisters have already made this impossible by going behind my back, deciding that I would be the least likely person to buy into this, and agreeing to let me buy for my brother's family since he's the only person I would have to buy for as he isn't married, has no children, and probably won't show up with a significant other. They don't trust me to call me up and run this by me when they're both on the phone, my one sister either volunteered or was asked to call me, I objected, and then I said that I didn't feel as if it was very fair that my kids not be a part of this if everyone else agreed to it which is something my sisters should have considered before since failure to agree is common and the rule rather than the exception in my family. This probably sounds way too melodramatic and complicated. It is. This is why I'm reading the books that I do and going to see a therapist. I can and probably will opt out of Christmas since I'm already annoyed at being labeled the family cheapskate and cut out of a conversation I would have liked to be a part of and a contributing member of the ultimate plan.
But my sister wants Christmas so she's trying to engineer it so she gets what she wants. This is her MO and it will continue to be her MO until she sees that getting her way is costing her family friendships. A key weakness of my mom and my sister is they forge ahead until they get their way and they will get it regardless of the cost. I used to be more like that. Now I see that getting my way or being right or winning the stupid argument is less important than the fact that time is fleeting, these are my flesh and blood relatives, and I don't really like being at odds with them. To loop back to my Breaking Addiction book there was a moment in the conversation that I would like to return to for a moment. It was the moment when I felt like getting into my car, driving to the nearest place that sold chocolate, and devouring a couple of candy bars. I felt helpless, manipulated, distrusted, and unloved. But then I said that I didn't want to be assigned anyone to buy presents for and I didn't want to be a part of a system that was that prescriptive in nature. Getting other people to do things is a lot of work, and there's room for error. My solution is to either not do presents which will never happen, band together and collect hats or coats or mittens or cash for a charitable organization, or have all the kids chip in to go to a movie or the theater or whatever. That way you pay for your kids, the cousins get an experience, and my mom who likes to do this kind of thing gets time with her grandchildren.
The Breaking Addiction book - have I mentioned how awesome this thing is yet - says that the actual behavior is less relevant than how you feel before you turn to whatever your chosen disruptor is, it doesn't help me if I stop eating and turn to alcohol or drugs as my coping mechanism. What helps is taking the direct steps that I would if I did not have an addiction at all. My sister who called is annoyed with me and my other sister who wants Christmas at her house probably will be too, but guess what? Their feelings are their problem. I don't owe it to them to try and figure out what would make them happy. They didn't ask me what I wanted. They called and tried to force a solution I hadn't been a part of dreaming up down my throat. Had they included me in the discussion things may have gone the same way, but I would have felt better about being asked to be a part of a group think project. I want Christmas at my house. This is the first year I'll have the house to myself without a controlling and malevolent ex who has ruined most of the Christmases my children have experienced. This could have been my year to hostess, I spoke briefly with my mother about it, she gets Thanksgiving every year, but she thinks she needs Christmas too, if we're going to have any sort of system I would like to see one that assigns where Christmas is going to be, but I've been overridden on this so many times including this year that I'm not optimistic although I will bring it up again because the taxation without representation idea doesn't sit well with me either.
The trap that myself and other addicts need to avoid is that helpless strangled feeling I'm experiencing right this very second. I have sorrow, grief, alienation, jealousy, envy, greed, isolation, sadness, hatred, anger, a small sliver of forgiveness, and a great weariness and pre holiday anxiety and exhaustion coursing through me. This year it's going to be different. I don't buy special outfits for the holiday because I tend to buy clothes that one could wear to a party or church that will also serve as a Sunday outfit and can be worn to school. The big puffy dresses are hideous to me, and for what people are spending on them, that's the budget for Chirstmas presents for the nieces right there. But their budgets are none of my business. My girls have never gone to church naked. They are free to talk to me about outfits, and we've always been able to come up with things for them to wear without going to the store although I will buy shoes if those are required. People frequently go behind my back to buy my kids things, naturally I resent this and give those things away as soon as I can since they are potent reminders of how I was outwitted, outsmarted, and controlled. This year I bought both girls boots that they can wear through the winter, and to church and Christmas concernts if they take care of them. Most people aren't looking at shoes and feet anyways, that probably sounds funny coming from me, but it's true. Most people see the dress and hair and not a little girl's shoes.
I called my aunt because I was crying. We had a short chat where she told me that she felt like I was putting in some really important work. I'm not avoiding getting a job because I don't feel like I need to work. In the past I've had a lot of trouble with bosses and I would get to a point where I would have to go get a snack. It wasn't about the Snickers bar or the ice cream or whatever treat I was telling myself I had earned. It was about having that one small pathetic thing that was detracting from my life that I wanted to cling to because it resembled control. I couldn't stop my bosses from piling work on me. I couldn't fight city hall or assert myself, but I could hit the vending machines or walk down to a store where food was for sale. Part of the road to health includes recognizing any time where those feelings arise. When I feel those, I need to step back and remind myself, I have other options. I stood up for myself, but I still have that codependent anxiety running through me. This is going to be a big topic in therapy. How do I assert myself appropriately? How can I more easily recognize these feelings, and what are things I can do to either ward them off, escape the situations, or confront them more directly. That conversation may not sound like a very big deal, but it was the very first step down a long road to recovering from a serious addiction that is ruining my health and happiness and keeping me from things I want in life. One step at a time, and today, that was my step.
Update - I badly wanted a treat and now I don't really feel like I need one as badly. I'd still like something sweet, and if I had something I would eat it, but we don't so I passed that hurdle for now...
Update II - I really need to expand my support network. The people I have are fine, but I need a broader friend base. If I had more casual aquaintances then I would have more of a social life and wouldn't sit at home stewing about so many things.