I’m in standard Boxing Day recovery mode. Dishevelled, half dressed, filled with self-loathing and body hate tempered with relief that I survived the celebrations with relationships intact and no major burn outs or disasters occurring.
Christmas started with Carrie Fisher’s near fatal heart attack and ended with George Michael’s fatal one. Sandwiched between, my sister and I ate, drank, watched American Horror Story and waited for a friend to arrive. Sad to say the friend never turned up as she was relapsing on alcohol, a nasty and often tragic behavioural by product of the season.
Celebrating Christmas has never been a big thing within my family, even before my non-Christianity and jaded working in retail attitude evolved.
Often, we would be on the move at that time of the year and unpacking suitcases in a new town or city where all the shops are shut and you don’t know anyone, doesn’t encourage the most festive of attitudes.
Living in a warmer climate also didn’t foster the most seasonal of moods either. Warm weather doesn’t condone rabid gluttony although it can bring inspiring creative interpretations such as Santa Claus on water skis or strange and celebratory beach wear.
If I was staying with my rabidly Catholic grandmother or attending one of my fundamentalist school there would be a frisson of cheer, complete with nativity stories, religious crafting work, carol singing and an exciting array of priests in glamorous jewel like robe wear.
My junkie days tended to weave the necessary feast, famine aspect of the occasion into the proceedings.
As chemist shops were shut over the holiday period, myself and my peers would pick up our takeaway scripts then binge and be immobilised until we had run out of drugs. This would be followed by several days of withdrawal and necessary miserable socialising to try and find substitute drugs to tide us over until the chemist shops opened again.
Living in Hong Kong at Christmas meant, simply enough, dressing up, and getting trashed in a variety of nightclubs ranging from the uber glamourous and very high end at the beginning of the evening to the most squalid and tawdry by early morning the next day. Eventually I would stagger into a dim-sum restaurant populated by traders with their caged birds on the tables next to them as they ate their breakfast congee and I had my life restoring strong brewed coffee made with sweetened condensed milk.
As I get older, each Christmas becomes a multi surface that shines back reflections of the fifty years of celebrations that came before.
I see the Christmas’ spent in detox units and rehabs, the attending of AA and NA meetings on Christmas day with their brightly shirted attendees and table groaning with recovery related literature and sweet indulgences.
There was a brief time when I accepted invitations to celebrate the day with others, as people would feel sorry for me and anxious about the possibility of my spending Christmas alone.
I spent one Christmas cheering up a friend who was a solo mother who had thrown her all into creating a magickal feast for her two daughters, only to be devastated when they stayed in bed all day recovering from several days of taking ecstasy and raving.
For a time, I would accompany a long-term boyfriend to huge family gatherings in Cornwall which would get smaller every year as drunken arguments caused dark skeletons to come tumbling out of the closet, causing permanent animosity and massive relationship rifts.
Eventually I learned that plane tickets on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day were cheaper, so I made a point of always being in transit on the day.
Occasionally I catch a glimpse of what I believe is the true seasonal spirit amidst the misery and consumerism, in an act of kindness or unconditional love and the excitement of very young children. However, this is so often obscured in anger and stress and greed. I believe that the feast day has become lost, just as my own years of memories of the occasion can too easily obscure my present experiences.