Christmas is just around the corner and already I see the sales push everywhere I go. I have never really enjoyed this time of the year because I realize that it is mostly about a huge push to market products to us – the consumer. That brings about a lot of stress. Christmas has become more or less a money time of the year.

The kids want the latest toy so they can keep up to their classmates and neighbours and the parents are under the gun to provide all the latest gadgets and products for them. I see the result of this everywhere with cars being raced from mall to mall or store to store with parents frantic to fulfill their children’s wish list. I see these stressed-out parents in the stores lining up to buy these gifts and they never look happy.

The strange thing is that even when mom and dad travel far and wide to buy, buy, buy, on Christmas morning the kids are often either disappointed that it was not enough or they simply discard some expensive item and pick up a cardboard box to play with. This is the time of the year when people should connect with the feeling of love and joy, but instead it has ended up being all about money and falling prey to smart marketing by big toy companies.

Christmas has almost always been a time of stress for me and I see it in so many others. These special days have turned into a time of the year when many sad and tragic things happen and that has to do with another prominent feature most of us take part in. I am referring to the use of alcohol and drugs at this time of the year.

For many households even though there are many presents under the tree the children will not be very happy. Too many of us equate Christmas and New Year’s Eve with parties where things always get out of hand. The children are forgotten as people party into the night and often there are very severe tragedies associated with this.

It is very sad when children realize that they cannot count on their parents for safety and protection because they are out of it on booze or drugs. This kind of Christmas is more like a horror show for them and will remain in their memories forever. People fight, curse, act irresponsibly and often endanger the children in the house. Many will drink and drive and have accidents. With the overindulgence, family violence frequently spikes during the so-called festive season.

Imagine the terror in a young child’s mind as they lie in their bed listening to the adults fight, get sick, swear and turn violent. In an alcoholic or drug-using household these children often live a nightmare. Dad and mom are not in their normal minds and they can’t be trusted to care for the kids. Children understand this situation and they become frightened and emotionally unstable. They know that they cannot simply go to their parents and their guests in this state of intoxication and often they group together to try to weather the storm as the party carries on outside their door.

Perhaps if we could realize the terror and fear that this behaviour triggers in our children, we would look for an opportunity to change. This time of the year should really be about love and joy, but it’s up to us to make sure that becomes the reality for our kids.

Perhaps this Christmas and New Year is the perfect time to get help if you are having problems with the bottle or if you are caught up in drugs. Go to the Yellow Pages and look up the number for Alcoholic Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Ask for help. You can also turn to the many social services that exist in most communities that help with addictions. On remote First Nations we have people who work in addictions and they can be sought out for help.

You could make this the best Christmas and New Year holiday time ever for yourself and your kids if you think you might have a problem with drinking or drugging. That would put the love and joy back into this special season.