I grew up watching NFL Sundays in the '80s with my family. Grandma's onion dip and deviled eggs. Supermarket hot chicken wings. Mom’s special hot cheese dip, which made the Easy Cheese whiz look like an amateur appetizer.
My family did NFL Sundays right back in the 80s.
What it really was, was an excuse to get the family together. We had three generations living in our New England home. The town we lived in was like a Norman Rockwell town. From Halloween until Easter, we were stuck inside most of the time, because the temperatures could get close to freezing, or just plain gloomy, pouring rain.
So NFL Sundays gave us an excuse to come together, and frankly, have something to do. It was a favorite family pastime that I hoped to enjoy in the future when I had my own family.
But it did not happen that way.
Instead, at the height of my husband's disease, football Sundays became a day I dreaded. A day that was my husband's toughest when the Chargers (his favorite team), continued to endure loss after loss.
I avoided being around my husband, because after the usual loss, he would come home from the game surly, upset, and irritated.
As the wife of an alcoholic, I just ran away from the problem.
So, instead of being in our home on the Sundays that were tough, I found my own sanity in running. I would run and run.
And while this was a good, healthy choice (and I got in great shape), I was also running away from the problem. In addition, I shut my parents out.
I did not tell them the truth, what Sundays were like for me. And this led to years of being distant on weekends, and misunderstandings and hurt on why we could not enjoy a favorite pastime.
When you speak the truth, the pain subsides.
Over time I learned to speak the truth. Even though it was painful at first, eventually the pain subsided. I found when I felt the feelings, and walked through the emotions, and was honest about it, the tough, unpleasant pieces lost power.
Now, my parents and I watch the game together. Sometimes just the three of us. And that is ok, because we have learned this can be a trigger for my husband.
Top 5 ways we found to have a successful NFL Sunday in recovery:
Communicate each other's healthy boundaries on tough days, so that both parties feel heard.
Accept that it's ok to walk away from a situation in order to keep the peace.
Lower the expectations, so that we do not elevate disappointment.
Put yourself first, and things that you enjoy, and allow your loved one to manage his or her own needs and emotions.
Plan ahead, and find other ways of bringing the family together that do not involve being around triggering events or alcohol. We have worked hard on our list.
Here are some of our favorite fall activities to do as a family:
Go apple picking.
Have a baking day of apple pies & caramel apples.
Watch a scary movie.
Decorate the house with pumpkins.
Go for a hike through the changing autumn foliage.
Follow through with these activities, even if someone is having a bad day. Everyone will feel much better getting out of the house. Finally, talk about what you liked about the activity at the end of the day, & remind yourselves what worked and what didn’t for next time.
We hope you enjoy your NFL season. I am looking forward to watching it with my family. My dad is already calling as to what we are serving Sunday-- today is Thursday. My mom is making her hot cheese dip.
If you find a moment that gets tough for you or your loved one, just remember you are not alone. I have been there.
I promise you, with a solid game plan, it can get better.