It's the most wonderful time of the year - But not for everyone!

Cassia tells us about her Christmases growing up in an alcoholic home and how it affects her today.

It's the most wonderful time of the year…Unless you grew up in an unstable environment.

As some of you will know we have been writing about living with an alcoholic for many years now.  Now Cassia, Lou’s daughter, has started opening up about her experience of growing up in an alcoholic household.  Here are some of her memories of Christmas.

Despite everything happening in my childhood, I was very fortunate to have a mother who so desperately attempted to make Christmas a happy time of year. Generally I have fond memories of Christmas in my family home but they were by no means picture perfect recollections. What could have been chocolate box flashbacks are shrouded with arguments and frustrations. The anticipation of opening piles of presents was studded with the inevitable clash between my brother and my father. The further into the day, the more the drink flowed and the more unstable everything became. Inevitably the day would end in me rolling my sleeves up and metaphorically skipping over to my beloved father in the hope that I could stop him drinking and make Christmas the perfect day it was supposed to be.

However, as I had said before. I could not stop him from drinking, he is the only one who could make that choice. Unfortunately I think the more he drank, the more guilty he felt and in so he continued to drink.  There was another event that happened around Christmas that was both wonderful and difficult. My father was one of three children. He had two kind and loving sisters who we visited in turn every year. As designated driver it would be a time when my father could not drink the hours away. He was generally on his best behaviour, as he was around his immediate and extended family. This always felt like a welcome break for me. I'm not sure the same can be said for my mother and brother. Part of the problem though is, when you enter someone else's chocolate box world as it were, you notice the cracks in yours even more.

The negative aspects of this yearly event has not left me unscathed however. I am conflicted when it comes to Christmas. On the one hand I have adopted my mother's desire, or need as it were. to make Christmas a bountiful banquet of gifts and goodies. Stretching myself and my bank account far beyond my means, in the attempt to bring the happiness I felt into others' lives. I am incapable of holding myself back because I become obsessed with creating a festive and fun atmosphere for everyone else. However, in reality it's largely down to my turbulent Christmases that I probably try too hard to make it a perfect occasion.  I feel frustration if things start to go downhill as I want to be able to fix it and make everything right but sometimes nothing can be done.  While I long for my own children and my own family Christmas I also dread it, I dread that I might accidentally ruin my offspring's day.

Taking everything into consideration however, I have to thank my mother for her tireless commitment to making Christmas the most wonderful time of the year. As much as she could all things considered. The presents were plentiful, the amount of food to graze was vast and the atmosphere for the most part was warm and loving. As I get older I do try to adopt the mind-set that it is a time to spread love and cheer. A time to be with your family and friends and a time to look out for those who are alone or in need. To quote my favourite Christmas movie: "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear". I like to interpret that in a less literal way. Don't let someone else's actions affect your ability to love and be kind. Shoot someone a smile in a busy street, be patient in that long line at the post office, take the time to check on somebody who is alone.  Even though mum was fighting a very real and difficult battle she never forgot to take the time to bring joy into someone else's life, and that, in my mind, is a life choice we can all benefit from.

In Bottled Up you can find more information about living with an alcoholic.  Also you can find tips to survive Christmas in the Survival Guide to Christmas.  We hope you all have a happy and peaceful Christmas.