It has already begun. The families having holiday parties and seeming like they really love one another. Like they are having a really good time together. When I see these photos and watch these stories, I feel a bit like a voyeur and a bit like an anthropologist, observing a new people heretofore undiscovered. “So THAT’S what it’s supposed to look like.” “Fascinating. It appears the parents are genuinely present and supportive and proud of their kids. Must record in logbook of how families seem to operate.”

I don’t know how they operate because aside from my magical grandmother who cooked with me and made Christmas Eve magical (an entire post on her forthcoming), my family was a drunk and sloppy mess on the holidays. And all the days before and after holidays. So when I see these other families full of genuine joy to be around each other instead of quietly simmering with unspoken secrets and hurt and anger, it takes my breath away. It’s tough to see all that and not see the obvious lack: you didn’t have that. Full stop.

Wherever you are in your journey to sorting out being an adult child of an alcoholic, this is a tough time of year. Even if you’ve found your new family, made up of people you’ve chosen to spend your time with who are healthy and good and kind. Even if your life feels full right now because of all your healing, these scenes and this season can creep up on you. We will never know what it would have been like to have that growing up. We just won’t. No matter how many namastes you put on it. That’s hard to sit with every year when others around you – through no fault of their own – had that seemingly magical family thing we crave because we didn’t have it.

So I ask you to sit with what IS. It is true we didn’t have that. But what is also true? What do you have NOW? What life are you creating for yourself NOW knowing all you know from what you experienced then? I am certain you are making different choices to make NOW amazing. Not in a way that ignores the past or tries to push those feelings aside. But in a way that is grateful for how far we’ve come. That is grateful for what IS. I promise to do the same. We can do this together.