This Christmas was an immense personal challenge for me especially since it really is my favourite holiday – even though there is a lot of drinking that goes on at this time of the year. I adore taking time to chose the perfect gift for each of the people in my life, wrapping presents and decorating the tree, planning the menu and everything that goes with the spirit of the day. For me it’s about the people and the precious time that we spend together. Don’t get me wrong there are always times that are less than idyllic when the family gets together, but that not even the little family arguments detract considerably from the time as a whole. But this year I was a long way from home, in a country that doesn’t even acknowledge that the celebration exists. I didn’t see a single Christmas tree, hear one Christmas song in a shopping mall or wrap a gift. I did feel a little like the Grinch, but there just wasn’t that Christmassy spirit or the tune of “Last Christmas” in the air.
In the same vein there are times over the Christmas/New Year week that can be trying for a non-drinker! Over the years I learned that there is a time in the celebrations when I have to slip quietly away from the festivities before it becomes too “messy”. It doesn’t always happen and it definitely depends who I am with, but family can be very tricky once they’ve had a few too many Crimbo cocktails! As I’ve mentioned before I hale from a family of big drinkers and I have to admit that sometimes the hours that come at the end of dinner can be a little tedious, but I love the feeling of being with the people who are most important to me. This year I didn’t even speak to my family on Christmas day because the thought of hearing their voices was just too traumatic. And I didn’t want to detract from their fun because I was feeling so homesick.
This is very very different from Christmases past when I was partaking in the revelry! The wine and song would flow and there’d be plenty of merriment into the early hours of the morning. But along with the merriment there would often be times when hurtful words would be exchanged and the evening would be marred with sentiments that would have been better left unvoiced. I don’t altogether understand why people say things when they have been drinking that they would never dream of saying in the clear light of sobriety. I don’t believe the saying “in vino veritas” – in wine there is truth! Yes, there are times when people who are drinking are jovial and loving, but where there is heavy drinking there often comes a stage of aggression and/or morbidity. Yes, alcohol exacerbates our feelings, but I don’t buy into the idea that it unleashes things that we would never say when we are sober.
Sometimes when people (myself included at one stage) drink it’s like there’s a point that one crosses when they enter into the dark side, beyond (w)here there be dragons! And those monsters are malevolent, sinister creatures whose soul intent it is to emotionally wound anyone who comes into contact with them. I said some really spiteful things to people just before I fell off the edge of the earth if I may stretch out the analogy, but I cannot believe that these are my real feelings about anything. I’ve also been on the receiving end of these venomous outbursts and they are devastating. However, where one may rise to the challenge after a couple of drinks, fighting mercilessly to slay the leviathans that rise from the “waters”. In sobriety I see the pointlessness of doing this and choose to believe that it is the alcohol and not the person talking.
In six years I have seen some nasty exchanges after long hours of drinking. And words spat out that are so out of a person’s character that they cannot possibly be true. I’ve seen mild mannered people turn into maniacal social miscreants and perhaps there is a part of them that wishes not to be shy and retiring, but I don’t believe anyone would truly want to be perceived as a complete fool in any state of mind. I’ve seen positive, open-minded people turn into morose pessimists and I’ve witnessed the happiest of friends and couples fighting over the most innocuous and trivial of subjects . So I chose to forgive myself for those times when I was that social misfit and in the same vein opt not to take to heart anything that comes out of someone’s mouth after they are past the point when they are able to control their thoughts. And I believe that’s exactly what happens…thought patterns get out of sync and like the drinker’s vision all the lines become blurred and fuzzy. Ideas, beliefs, values and opinions overlapping and interchanging in such a haphazard way that nothing makes sense and so no weight can be given to the words that spill from their slack lips. You don’t have to agree with me on this point and I am have no doubt that there is any real science in my theory, but knowing myself and the most important people in my life, I think there is some truth in my idea, even if it is only through having seen and experienced it first hand.
So here’s to hoping you had a wonderful Christmas. And if your favourite relative said something after too many whiskeys or wines that might have hurt yet felt like it came out of left field, don’t take it to heart but rather forget it and put it down to blurred lines and muddled thought patterns. Certainly don’t put any weight in the idea that in wine there be truth!
‘Til next time