Revy let’s talk: Christmas cheer, or not

Stacie Byrne

CYMHSA Project Lead

It’s Christmas time in Revelstoke.

It’s a time of celebration, lights are strung on every house, holiday carols are being played in every shop and everyone’s looking for that Hallmark movie that was filmed on Mackenzie St. to be aired.

But at a time when there is Christmas magic in the air, many people still struggle with this holiday.

This month, I sat down with Cory (name changed) who shared the struggles that he faces at this time of year. His is a story that’s worth sharing because we all can find a piece of ourselves in his experience. Cory could be your neighbour, your co-worker, or someone you haven’t met yet.

“I struggled a lot with alcohol throughout my life. I used it as a way of dealing and coping when things were bad. I used it to celebrate when things were good. And I used it to pass the time when things were neither bad nor good. And then I realized life was going into a downward spiral and I was alone. Sure, there were people around me, but really I was alone.”

This started to make sense to me as I thought about the guilty pleasures of the holidays like overeating, or having a drink or four to get through that awkward family dinner, or putting a little Bailey’s in your coffee at the office. But talk about drinking too much, or too often and, as Cory pointed out, people start to label you as an addict while they look at you with deep concern. He’s right. There’s still so much stigma around substance use and addiction.

“So I just stopped talking about it to avoid the look of pity or judgment that I’d see on someone’s face.”

What would you rather have someone do?

“Show some empathy. Talk to me with a curious mind, not a judgmental one. Try to understand me and where I’m coming from instead of jumping to ‘you need to get help’. Don’t ‘silver-lining’ it. Some times there is no brighter side: ‘well, at least you’ve got your health’, ‘cheer up, think of all the friends you have’, ‘but it’s Christmas time; the happiest time of year!’. If you’re trying to cheer me up in this kind of time, you obviously have no idea what I’m going through and it makes me feel ever more alone. Just let me feel what I feel or feel some of that with me.”

As he shares his ups and downs of getting his drinking under control only to lose it again, I’m reminded of how difficult at times it can be to see the forest for the trees.

“There were bad times, the dark time, when I thought ‘I’ll never get out of this, it will always feel this way, this is who I am and life will never change.’ But I did get out, I don’t always feel like this, and every day I’m changing.”

Cory has some advice for others who might be struggling this holiday season, too.

“Be patient with yourself. There are so many ups and downs and we’re pulled in so many different directions. If you fall off the wagon, go off the rails, or just mess up and put your foot in your mouth, know that tomorrow is a new day. Give yourself some space to make mistakes, as long as the consequences aren’t too severe. We’re all only human. We’re all just trying to figure it out one day at a time.”

If you have concerns, talk to your family doctors, counselor, or trusted friend. Call a help line 24/7. Or contact the Alcohol & Drug Information and Referral Service at 1-800-663-1441 (toll-free in B.C.). They provide free, confidential information and referral services to British Columbians in need of support with any kind of substance use issue (alcohol or other drugs) 24/7.

Got a story to share? Looking for more resources?

Stacie Byrne is the Project Lead for the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use (CYMHSU) Local Action Team, which is a part of a larger Provincial Collaborative working together to support people between the ages of 6-24 years old and their families with mental health and substance use challenges. The Collaborative works with Service Providers and the community to share how all of the pieces of the recovery puzzle fit together and what is available within and outside of Revelstoke.

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