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Why my best Christmas was in Rehab

Kylie Beattie | Friday, December 21st, 2018

| Addiction | Health and Wellbeing |


It was five days out from Christmas and I was facing one of the most painful periods of my life. I had fallen into a deep depression, my relationship had suddenly ended, my eating disorder was out of control and the tyrant that lived inside my head unrelenting and more viscous than ever. So…with no family in Australia, nowhere to live, and a pain in my heart so great I thought it would explode I began to contemplate the thought of actually going into rehab over Christmas.

As I look back, going into treatment was the only right step considering my level of functioning but funnily it was the thing I felt the guiltiest about mainly because it was Christmas. Family and friends, naturally concerned, didn’t like the idea of me being alone or worse in rehab at Christmas and urged me to fly home, but another part knew that if I simply did what others felt was right and didn’t look within, then I would miss the opportunity of a life time. Now as I reflect fifteen years later, I can truly say rehab was the best gift I have ever given myself.

There seems not enough space in the universal ideal of Christmas for the human experience, but since my own painful Christmas I hold in my heart more tenderly those suffering this time of year. The person grieving the loss of a child, husband, sister, parent; the alcoholic gripped by compulsion, those in deep depression judging themselves against the ‘merriment’ of people around them or the person who loves someone that’s really struggling this Christmas.

Unrealistic expectations, guilt, financial pressure and family conditioning mean many of us merely survive Christmas rather experience real joy.

Booking into treatment is a massive part of the battle, as it’s the indicator of our willingness to confront and deal with our problems. While families and loved ones may struggle initially to support rehab at Christmas or at anytime perhaps, possibly out of fear or their own conditioning, getting support is a gift that families and children feel on a much deeper level, beyond the materialism of gift giving. The whole system breathes a sigh of relief when those in it are taking care of their part. Really no store bought gift could ever replace that.

It does takes a lot courage and self compassion to seek help and go into treatment at Christmas but treatment for me offered the support I desperately needed; the absence of having to manage family dynamics, no pressure of where to go, who to see and how much to expend myself. There was safety from the overeating, the constant drinking and the pressure to shop, cook and be happy! What I learnt in treatment about my fantasy of Christmas was that I was trying to bring into one day what I was not bringing into the other 364 days of the year, which was how to communicate with more care, how to say no, how to not manage my feelings with food, alcohol, shopping, exercise, how to take responsibility for my actions regardless of what others do and how to find joy within rather than always seeking it from outside.

In treatment there is a lot of facing what's been avoided, for me it was the fear, the pain and the fact I hadn’t really fully stepped into being an adult, but there are also exquisite moments of grace, where you able to just stop and purely be, not just eating and drinking your way through the craziness of Christmas.

Now, being at Byron Private, I love bearing witness to the incredible courage of those facing and working through their own difficulties at Christmas. There is a real richness in just being with others at their most vulnerable without anyone having to pretend to be different. Don't get me wrong, treatment isn't about getting a fairytale ending, I still have Christmas's that are very difficult, such as my first Christmas without my father, Christmas's where people I love are in addiction, depression, grief or experiencing a family breakdown, but what I now have is more acceptance and less expectation that it should be different. That for me the 'magic’ of Christmas.

About Kylie

As co founder and Director of Byron Private, Kylie has played a vital role in the vision, establishment and development of Byron Private Treatment Centre. Kylie holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Counselling) and has completed extensive studies in Family Systemic Constellation work, a cornerstone element of therapy for clients of Byron Private.  Kylie began her own journey in recovery over 18 years ago from disordered eating and addiction and understands first hand the challenges and wonder of recovery.

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