The Year I Lost Christmas: A Story About Grief and Addiction

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I'm so happy author Judy Tomczak is back this week with a heart-wrenching post on what Christmas is like when you have a loved one struggling with an addiction.

I can completely relate to this post. My Mom lost her sister when she was young around Christmastime and I think because she was so sad, she did everything she could to make Christmas happy for my brother and I. We made gingerbread men for all the neighbours, we went tobogganing and made snow angels, we sang, acted in and sometimes ran the church Christmas play, we listened to Christmas music, decorated the house inside and out and of course, had plenty of presents. All of my Canadian Christmases were chock full of tradition, cookies and snow. Exactly how one would picture Christmas should be.

Which turned me into a ginger Christmas elf.

Every year, December would come and I went Christmas-crazy. Crazy! For twenty-five years I had blissful Christmases. Not always perfect but very close... until I married my husband. *Hubs, I'm sorry if you're reading this, it's just the truth. 

I wouldn't say I've had a "blissful" Christmas with him yet. Each one was speckled with its own troubles, some years worse than others. My inner Christmas elf put herself back on her shelf for awhile, afraid to have Christmas break her heart again. But like Judy will tell you, it's like putting on glasses and all of a sudden you clearly see the other people around you who love you and need you. 

My boys needed this ginger elf to get her butt off her shelf and find her Christmas spirit. So if you're having a hard Christmas this year, I hope this encourages you. Make some cookies. Make a snow angel. And whatever is happening, have a very, merry Christmas. 


What happens when Christmas isn't the most wonderful time of the year? For many people, Christmas is a time filled with grief and sorrow for what they're missing out on. Have you been there? How do you deal with Christmas grieving? What does God really want from us this Christmas? Read a heartfelt post by Judy Tomczak as she shares her grief over her daughter's addiction and how it affected her Christmas spirit. 

What happens when Christmas isn't the most wonderful time of the year? For many people, Christmas is a time filled with grief and sorrow for what they're missing out on. Have you been there? How do you deal with Christmas grieving? What does God really want from us this Christmas? Read a heartfelt post by Judy Tomczak as she shares her grief over her daughter's addiction and how it affected her Christmas spirit. 

I distinctly remember the year I lost my Christmas. I didn’t lose the meaning of the season or my appreciation for the birth of my Lord and Saviour. It was His strength that got me through it all but hovering above my Christmas was a dark cloud, a memory. For me, this cloud hovered almost a decade. 

I felt it every time she relapsed. It lifted during times when she was doing well and then returned with each stumble backwards. Its name is grief. Even though they may still be with us in body when their addiction steals them from us, they are gone. We hope and pray they will return but we never know for certain.

It was a Christmas night when she took her first drink which led to her first experience with being intoxicated. The day had been beautiful. A time of family, laughter, great food and presents. It was a good one until it wasn’t. Stolen with the sounds of her sneaking back into the house and what followed. She was drunk. I knew for her this wasn’t good. Not a one time slip or a teenager just trying this out. I knew this would be a journey and one I didn’t want to take. She had just begun to be healthy again after a long battle with an eating disorder. We were just starting to feel normal.

I spent the wee hours of the morning clearing my home of everything Christmas. The outside lights, the tree, the decorations, all removed and put away. I put Christmas away that year and for years it remained there. Oh, every year I went through the motions of the season but my heart was no longer in it. Instead, it reminded me of where the journey began.

A decade later, something changed in me. Not overnight, gradual, and it took me by surprise. As I gave to Him what I had no power to change, He began to change me. The cloud that once overshadowed everything wonderful about Christmas began to lift. The joy I felt wasn’t dependent on our situation. Not much had changed. It wasn’t how I had dreamt it should be but somehow it didn’t matter anymore.



As I changed, the void I felt began to be filled by others who God placed into my life. People who had been there all along but lost in the haze of grief. Like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time, I saw clearly not just the empty chair at my table and the missing piece, I could now also see clearly those who were there. Family, I love and who love me too, who needed me and were worthy of my love in return.

That year “crazy Christmas lady” was what my husband called me. I purchased a new Christmas tree and all new decorations. Everything was wrapped and decorated for Christmas. I was all in and present. I got my Christmas back.

Seasons do not last forever. They come, they go but there is no other way to get to the other side of them but through them. Grief is a season and we all feel it. We mourn our loss, what could have been and the what if. We need and have to feel it to get to the other side.

For years, she didn’t talk to me but life went on. I got busy living the life God had intended for me to live. Fast forward a few years and I now hear from her almost every day. This Christmas for the first time ever, it is her home, with her little family where we will be spending Christmas day.

If this sounds like you this Christmas season, I pray God breathes new life into your Christmas as He did into mine. My grief was a season of letting go, of growth and new direction. Go through your season of grief but don’t ever let it be your final destination.

Leah Grey Twitter
 

Dear Lord,

I have a friend who doesn’t like Christmas.

All the tinsel and jolly, it makes her sad.
Reminding her of loss and what she is missing.
All of the good times that she once had.

I have a friend who doesn’t like Christmas.

Surrounded by family and friends while in a bad mood.
Not even music or laughter, lifts her spirit.
Not the gifts or candy or even the good food.

I have a friend who doesn’t like Christmas.

I don’t wonder or judge what is the reason.
I know the dark cloud that hovers above her.
Stealing the joy that surrounds her this season.

I know in my heart how this can be.

My friend who doesn’t like Christmas,
used to be me.

 

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline or in Canada, call 1-800-565-8603 or visit Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) for your local helpline.


Author, Judy Tomczak

Get in touch with Judy: time2catchup@hotmail.com

Judy Tomczak is the author of "When the Light at the End of the Tunnel is Another Train". Judy is the youngest daughter of Rev. Lorne Shepherd, founder of the Heart to Heart Family Ministries. Life was relatively calm until her adult years but nothing challenged her faith and well-being more than watching her daughter fight the battle of addiction. Judy has committed herself to being a conversation starter and storyteller to do her small part in lifting the veil of guilt and shame that often surrounds mental illness and addiction. Knowing you are not alone is often the first step in seeking help. 


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