Ho, Ho, Ho, it's the holidays: A gameplan for successfuly navigating through the festival circus

  • By Nancy A. Simon
  • nasprx@aol.com
  • December 08, 2005 @ 3:30 PM
Merriment, pure and simple, joy.

Time spent with families, loved ones and the greater sense of community.

Lily white crisp snow, warm log-laden fires, ornamental gift-wrapped boxes, decorative spaces and bountiful spreads of sumptuous fare; does this describe the quintessential-traditional “home for the holidays” picture? Perhaps, if one is fortunate enough to live in an insular, utopian society.

But take the ho out of home (for the holidays) and you are solely left with ME, which is more commonly how the cyclical looped tape of how does it affect ME..plays like for addictive types: competitive siblings, overbearing parents, tiresome colleagues, worrisome gatherings, indecisive shopping ventures and scads of preoccupation with getting through the holidays in sober, narcotic debt-free, non-promiscuous, relatively the same weight and, as a whole, basically non- affected in any compulsory manner.

Twelve step programs, long a haven for those seeking a spiritual route to conquer their inner demons, depend upon the sanctity and anonymity of the “rooms” to find safe refuge in which they feel comfortable to disclose their deepest fears, impure thoughts, high anxieties and, as a result, their inappropriate behaviors.

Societal Pressures

Talk about seasonal affective disorder, during the holiday season, these rooms tend to overflow with dwellers desiring calm amid the chaos and inner serenity amongst the constant infiltration of Santas clanging, cash registers ringing and obnoxious commercialized messages intrusively invading every nook and cranny of one’s life. Simply put, at this time of year, those susceptible to addictive indulgences are triggered one hundred-fold.

All around you, the sentiment is reinforced. You ought to be surrounded by scads of loved ones, you are supposed to be euphoric, infinitesimally compassionate & giving and, plum darn blissfully cheerful. Constantly emoting all these feelings requires efforts and for many addicts this is their biggest test to not give in to societal demands of how one ought to behave. Note: Scholarly research studies conclude the cognitive dissonance that exists between how one feels versus how ones believes they are supposed to feel- is a direct negative correlative result of heinous, salacious, over exaggerated advertising campaigns). Unfortunately, this pressure can prove so great, so overwhelming that many do succumb to their cravings and yearnings only to repetitiously berate themselves.

Sadly, nonsensical society stigmas have caused many a good natured, well intentioned person’s demeanor to dramatically spiral downward having been exposed to a combination of far too many drastically disordered holidays mixed with a present day influx of seasonal media messages and everyday images all hammering the repeated theme of uncontained merriment & joy.

The pressure becomes unpalatable. The rapturous desire to be in constant good spirits, to immediately venture forth and develop close personal relations overtakes one’s rational thinking. Eventually, the failure to get caught up in the same convivial, sanctimonious momentum as everyone else appears to be imbibing may cause a person to burrow deeply within the depths of severe Grinchery, i.e. despair and misery.

Pre-Holiday Plan of Action

So for addicts everywhere or others who share the same disdain, we offer a plan of action, a manifesto of sorts for surviving the disastrously dreaded holiday season. The twelve preventative measures to guide you through the HO HO HO, Holidays:

1) Stave off feeling blue... Offer to hold a spectacular holiday soiree at your place ala Martha Stewart-esque style so that the pressure will really be one you to present a ‘swanky spread”. As a compulsive perfectionist, all the time you devote to this shin-ding will keep you

preoccupied from the construction of original invitations and the traveling to organic farms to buy only the freshest of ingredients to the matching of plating and silverware and drafting a blueprint for the seating arrangement all the activities this fete require will keep you busy as a beaver throughout the duration of holidays. (and we did not even mention the intensive food preparation process) hence, the season of merriment will go by in such a flurry you will NOT have time to get depressed.

2) GIVE..GIVE some more and then just when you think you can’t GIVE one iota más...simply put GIVE until it hurts. Your goal this holiday season is to concern yourself with giving, not necessarily gifts but of yourself, as opposed to receiving. The more unfettered your life becomes, the more you relinquish your dependence on material goods, the less you use buying things to ‘perk up your mood’, the more internally gratified and spiritually connected you will become. Does this sound a bit too much like philosophical phooey? Yes, perhaps, it does border on crap du jour, but when you consider the alternative of having to actually give items of monetary value, well then it is best to as the Matrix Revolutions espoused “Just BELIEVE.”

3) Re-define what happiness is during the holidays. Instead of comparing your situation to how “normal/ Norman Rockwell-esque’ families interact, put a premium on how dramatically improved your individual behavior has become during these ritualistic gatherings.

Learning to modulate your Hulkish anger and terrible displeasure, you no longer make those horrible grimacing faces throughout the three hour-pre meal waiting period while showing your disdain for having to answer repeatedly to insipid questions like: “How ye’ doing?” and “You got someone nice in your life.”

You now refrain from calling family members childhood names such as: goof-ball and pinhead in front of their significant others. And, remember, you learned to be gracious and say thank you when opening such insensitive, asinine gifts as: (for women) the book entitled “Why Men Marry

Some Women and Not Others” by John T. Molloy and a Wonder Bra from Victoria Secret or for men the book “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” by Toby Young or I want to be Alone” by Jonathan Franzen and a oversized bottle of hair thinning solution. (CIVILity & GRACE ) how far you have come. Remember it is progress not perfection.

4) Rather than going out and buying what you think your family & friends will like; make them come with you on the buying bonanza to avoid senseless inexplicable worry, anxiety and self doubt over whether you have the ‘correct’ purchases, gifts they will like (meaning keep not exchange.)

The brilliance of the shop together idea is that you can restore the relationship while making it easy on yourself. Not only will your gift be their favorite as they, themselves have ensured (given the pre-specified dollar amount limit) but the two of you have gotten an opportune time to spend QUALITY time together, to really learn about one another, likes and dislikes. WOW! What a truly special treat. Definitely a win, win for all parties involved!

Note: Should they have a problem participating in the shopping process and, hence, knowing ahead of time what their gift will be...well, then tell them to bugger off, it is either this way or now way. Alas, the sentimentality of the holidays.

5) Produce your own holiday newsletter. Everyone knows that you do strange things with food(i.e. display eating disorder behavior) so go a tad further with your holiday newsletter and include recipes, menus, damn. just go for it an entire grocery list, of items they should stock up on during your holiday visits. Be quite specific in your dietary restrictions which of course have changed immensely from the previous year’s tightly wound meal accruements. Write down the exact brand names, precise quantities and exclusive stores where your ever-so-amenable friends, family and colleagues may purchase these highly selective, often very perishable, consumptive items.

For example, this year you may have been strictly instructed to stay away from the sugar, to reduce your carbohydrate intake (recently got hooked on the Atkins’ Diet) and load up on

protein. Therefore, you will be in some serious need of vast quantities of meat for your (and yours alone) consumption. Plus, you may want to make note of the fact that your nutritionist has limited the number of caffeinated drinks you can intake so it is hoped that hosts will cordially supply plenty of really expensive, hard-to-find, new age decaffeinated teas & healthy concoctions.

6) Find a substitute for drinking & excessive eating. For the average person this could be mean talking with guests and reacquainting yourself with those you have not seen in quite some time. However, where addicts are concerned, this subtle practice may not work as small talk (uncomfortably akin to riding a CTA bus during rush hour while carrying multiple sacks of groceries) does not come naturally.

Therefore, if you learn a new skill prior to the holidays, i.e. balancing spoons on your nose; telling off-color, politically incorrect jokes; or contorting your limbs into grotesque positions, the humiliation from having just performed in such an insipid manner will take your mind off of how awkward you are in social situations or as clinically referred to as the state of dis-ease with oneself in which you imbue.

7) When making out your holiday gift wish list out down items you don’t really care about that way you won’t really be disappointed if you do not get them. The premise being to lower your expectations as far as you need so that you eventually meet the basement-dwelling level of those with whom you surround yourself.

8) Entertain by becoming a storyteller. Educate yourself on the nutritional properties and after effects of food and share it with guests at all the holiday parties you go to this season. Using vivid, colorful analogies, illuminate upon the wonderful sedative and prolonged stomach distention that occurs after consuming such fatty, rich, decadent desserts and caloric goodies.

Offer step-by-step breakdowns of the digestive process as the food enters their mouths and distributes mercilessly throughout the body. This on-going activity will delight you with much needed bouts of amusement as you hob knob from party to party. Hard pressed to other as equally pleasing outlets, you will greatly appreciate the indescribably sad and silly expressions that begin to creep up on the faces of guests as you lead up to the decidedly sublime bowel discharge portion of your interchange.

9) Make your own holiday newsletter and send it out the long list of persons in your life. In black & white put down all your wrongdoings for the year and make appropriate apologies *amends* to those persons whose lives you have mangled, relationships you have botched, insensitive comments you have uttered and seething resentments you have harbored. Perhaps, it will be embarrassing for persons you mention to have their stories shared with countless others, but this is your NEWSLETTER..this is about YOU apologizing for your actions so they can just get over themselves and think about someone else for a change.

With such a blatant public display of your ineptitudes and child-like, willful behavior there is no way people can not forgive you of your misdeeds. Plus, having started a clean slate, properly made your reparations, you are then free to go on about your merriment and enjoy a guilt-free holiday. That is, of course, unless, you are a complete maladjusted arse, can not help but wreak havoc, and yet again unearth a whole new set of “I’m Sorry’s” prior to January 2nd.

10) You vow never again to have a one-night stand. This promiscuous, sleazy (yet immediate gratifying) act has proved dangerous and unfulfilling. So to honor your pledge this holiday season and prevent any chance of pairing off with someone (literally anyone) at a party, it is time to come forth and take proactive steps.

Divulge your true self upon first meeting, that you are a Bi-Polar schizoid whom once bedded will relentlessly pursuit them until arrested. You will incessantly stalk them from that moment on, calling their home at all hours to talk about how much this get-together meant to you and how much you would LOVE to see them again.

Should you not receive a proper response, then you will simply show up on their doorstep. By being upfront with potential suitors and immediately disclosing the many fine wonderments of your frenetic personality right from the start, you will stomp out any and all chances of snaring a partner and, hence, will have achieved your goal of avoiding sexual interludes this holiday season.

11) Start practicing meditation. This season, give yourself an early gift of mediation sessions with a trained holistic practitioner. By the time all the hoopla arrives you will be in such a deep, transitive state that you will pay no pay no mind to the in your face sensory overload of holiday fanfare from the piped in ring-a-dinging, achingly cheery music, ubiquitous, larger than life red & white decorations, commercials with Santa and shopping, shopping & Santa to the never-ending chatter of parties being planned, the bell-ringer collecting at every street corner and, not to mention, the promotion at work you are NOT getting. You will have expertly learned to repeat your rhythmic mantra chant over and over again as the countdown lags on to the big “DAY”. Clear and simple: BLOCK IT ALL OUT. The more practiced you become, the deeper state of surrender (DENIAL ) you will be able to attain.

12) Change addictions this holiday season. Tired of your old routine, compulsory behaviors (betting all your money at the track, drinking until you black out) well, switch over to a new addiction you have yet to try. (anonymous sex, prescription drug reliance). For the next couple of hellish weeks, it will provide a fresh and charming disarming outlook on life, a new activity for you to learn and with which to get accustomed. By the time this new addiction gets the better of you, the holidays will be over, and you can go back to your old compulsory companion. **The Good news is there are hordes of addictions out in the world just waiting to get under your skin**


After the harmonious (or is it acrimonious) holidays have gone away then you can look forward to New Years and making your resolutions for another fine year of unrealistic goals and accomplishments.

The aforementioned labyrinth of activity works because it gives you an outlet to re-direct all your pent-up, binge eliciting feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, depression, general restlessness and| or feelings of discontent. If you are able to find ways to dispense will all these negative emotions, then you will no longer need to resort to the extreme of employing such an elaborate scheme simply to cover up your discontent.

Should the aforementioned suggestive actions seem unconventional, well, then it is your responsibility to quiet down; focus your energies; and set forth on making a realistic life plan. Some possible goals may be to partner off, achieve inner peace, temper addictive tendencies, squirrel away gads of money and authentically attain pure unadulterated happiness. And if indeed you do succeed, the good news is that by this time next year, you should be able to forego such a vexatious plan. The bad news is that you will need to come up with a entire new roster of ways to get your kicks!


Disclaimer: Please note no negative commentary or innuendoes have been intended in references made regarding twelve step programs, the AA Big Book or persons afflicted with compulsory addictive behaviors.