ACoA: The Night Santa Came Home Drunk
Frederick A. Levy LCSW

Barely breathing through the blackened stillness, little Janie clutched her bed sheets, while the eerie harmony of daddy's wobbly caroling and mommy's dissonant sobs wafted up the staircase. Stinking of booze, the air choked Janie's senses as she buried her head in her pillow to dampen the horror beneath her.

Santa was drunk and Christmas Eve laid tattered in the ruins of countless holidays stalking Janie's memory. The violent fights, endless scenes, and broken dreams paraded across her consciousness like wounded veterans returning home from war. And when the din died, no one came to take the survivors home.

Years passed, and Janie, married with children of her own, still despaired at the first sign of Santa. Throwing herself headlong into the Yuletide, she would furiously organize her family's plans, only to collapse as the final strains of "White Christmas" faded into the wintry night.

And each year, the ache would grow stronger, as the time to heal grew longer. Even daffodils rising through the snow could not renew her sagging spirits.

Janie, like many Adult Children of Alcoholics, would strive to override her despair from a childhood of family turmoil mixed with Christmas cheer. Dismissing her suffering, she would feel ashamed for failing to share the joy that had never embraced her world.

Having survived the booze, the adult child endures abuse as the price for her family's love. Blind to the pain in her past, she pushes away the nurturing she needs for her annual season of sadness.

Secretly, she dreams of sharing the perfect Christmas, with the smell of roasting chestnuts flooding her imagination. Still, in the cold winter light, the "spirits of Christmas past" continue to haunt her ravaged idyll of harmony.

Battles raging with daddy storming away; hare trigger tensions in wait of a false word; car wrecks and injuries, and police sirens moaning at the door, all lie at the bottom of her memory like rotting ghost ships. In a Yuletide of severed ties, she carries irretrievable hurts more indelible than wine stains on the carpet.

Trying to prevent a repeat of the past, she protects her Christmas plans with the vigilance of a sentinel on the eve of battle. Sleepless, she endlessly rehearses, not resting until planning the unplannably perfect occasion.

And when Christmas Day comes, she rearranges the dinner table place tags three times, frantically attempting to recall who is speaking to whom. Consumed with imminent disaster, she climbs inside a bubble of tension, ready to pop with the touch of a helping hand.

Exhausted, she seethes in righteous resentment, fearing her family has abandoned her. Immersed in self pity, she sinks, feeling martyred, unappreciated, and alone.

But silently, the child within still sits by the hearth, waiting for Santa's descent. Expecting the promise of peace as reward for her steadfast faith, she begins to believe that life has reneged on its bargain, with her hopes for fulfillment rapidly fading away.

But with her dreams in ashes, the phoenix of self awareness arising from her grief can heal her ravaged heart. Seeing the futility in carrying her family's suffering, she begins to appreciate her own, and finally recognize her needs.

Slowing down, requesting help from her family, and experiencing the blessings of her life, she can counter the pain from her past. And as she shares the love she has co-created with her family of relations and friends, she can begin to bury the past, and breathe the glory of her own rebirth.

Copyright Fred Levy, LCSW all rights reserved