I have been known on occasion to have the odd tipple of Laphroaig after a long hard day, and on the rare occasions I do go out, I'll have a couple glasses of wine, a vodka lime, or a nice crisp G&T. I know my limits, I know that one or two drinks will give me enough of a buzz to enjoy myself, and I generally have cokes or soda water and lime in between alcoholic drinks, 1) because I hate hangovers and 2) because, frankly, it's cheaper.
I know. What a sickening Miss Goody Two Shoes I am.
But I live with someone who has a drinking problem, so the reason for my dread and dismay is that it's Christmas time again, and yet again, this holiday will be used as an excuse to be drunk for a good week and a half.
"It's Christmas. What's wrong with having a drink at Christmas?"
"I have the Christmas Spirit, stop being such a miserable cow."
"For God's sake, why should I pace myself? It's the time to be merry and jolly!"
I've had those retorts thrown at me, and much worse over the years. But this year, my dread is early because Husband seems more belligerent than usual. He is miserable in his job, so drink is his crutch.
From June onwards, I put a little money aside each week. Nothing massive, just a few pounds here and there, in order to save a decent amount for Christmas. I am a small business owner who has noticed the pinch of recession in recent years, so I don't have the luxury of a regular income. I work hard, for much less than I'm probably worth. I know this is a similar story for many of my networking associates.
As far as Christmas gift giving goes, I generally buy the majority of the gifts for my daughter, as well as whatever Husband wants, and also presents for all the nieces and nephews on both sides. I usually make the adults in both families something homemade: boxes of truffles, homemade mincemeat, christmas biscuits, non-alcoholic ginger wine. Or occasionally we will set rules like "only spend £5." It's long since been agreed that we spend the majority of our money on the kids in the family, as Christmas is really for them first and foremost.
Husband just has to buy for me and his parents.
So this year, as usual, I have bought for everyone, including most things on Husband's list, (which is a bit specialised as he requires tools for his hobby which are not cheap). As my daughter is now in her mid-teens, she is at the stage where she doesn't really want anything. She already has a laptop, a fairly good phone, an iPod and a DS Lite. She hasn't asked for anything other than books, so I have bought her those, plus lots of little things that I thought she'd like. (If I totalled them up, it would probably come to £200 or so.)
Today, Husband asked me to buy a wreath for the door. I said I couldn't as I had run out of money.
Cue RAGE as he found out I had no money left to buy the Christmas food; something I actually thought he was purchasing this year. (He got his Christmas wage on Tuesday, plus a bonus. And he says it has just about gone after rent, car tax, council tax and TV licence are taken off. And then he said, "So I haven't been able to get you anything much yet.")
I have just had to listen to him scream at me for the better part of three hours about how I could be so irresponsible and not check my bank balance. How I could have dared to invite my family up for Christmas when we now have little money left to feed them. How Christmas is essentially ruined by my carelessness. And how did I expect HIM to pay for Christmas food when he NEVER has any spare cash at the end of the month, so why did I think this month was different?
So I rang the bank and asked for an overdraft, which they kindly agreed to.
(It is at this point where I need to point out that he earns twice what I do. Yet every month he needs a few quid for this and a few quid for that and can he borrow £20 for petrol, and he is out of tobacco and the world will end if I don't give him £10 immediately.)
But he spends £70 a WEEK on alcohol and tobacco.
So, I worked out what we'd need to spend on food this week, to feed us plus an extra 5 mouths. It's about £160, including the massive turkey. And I wondered "why the rage, the food will be paid for?" Then I realised that it wasn't about food at all. His rage is because I haven't set aside any money for alcohol.
So while I have been quietly scrimping and saving for 6 months to accrue money for Christmas, he has spent over £3500 on alcohol and tobacco alone. If he even halved this spend, he'd be £1700 better off a year. If he'd put that aside and saved like I have, we'd be eating like kings next Wednesday.
I hate being a penny pincher. But what I hate more is living with an alcohol-dependent person. He is selfish and self centred. He only thinks about how he will get his next drink. This is the third Christmas in a row he hasn't bought me anything because he had no money, which isn't a big deal, but it hurts, coming second to bottles of alcohol.
So I have very little Christmas spirit, if I'm honest, either literally or figuratively. I'm not looking forward to the next week, other than seeing my daughter open her presents, and seeing my sister, her family and my Dad on Christmas Day. It's been a tough month for him and this is the first Christmas without his mother.
The bottles of wine and spirits I do have, given to me by clients, are hidden away. I hate not being able to freely enjoy one glass of something, because I know that the rest of the bottle will be drunk within 24 hours. I am so sick of living like this. But I don't know how to change it.