I have found the issue of gifts, both giving and receiving, one of the most challenging areas in which to find peaceful acceptance. In today’s post, I want to talk about struggles and acceptance regarding the giving of gifts.
This is where my ego really kicks up. I love giving an extravagant gift or at least making sure my gift is going to be as nice (i.e., expensive) as everyone else’s. In recovery, this has been painful for me. There are times I have been unable to give a gift at all when the event was unexpected because I have very limited funds in my gift category and if it’s been spent or is being saved for a planned event, well, that’s life.
It is a category I really want to overfund because I get great pleasure giving gifts. Yet, thankfully, my PRG has helped me be balanced in this area, even though it means I must make choices and feel discomfort.
For instance, my sister-in-law had surgery last year, and I just had no money left in my gift category, so I felt really ashamed.
But I called her every day to check on her.
Afterwards, she told me about this friend who sent food trays and that friend who sent a gift basket. And I fell all over myself apologizing. But she said that my calls to her were very important. While I still felt embarrassed, it was truly the best I could do.
The fact is, I think I received very skewed messages about money equaling love throughout my life.
Or take kids’ birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs. Now, THAT is a challenging subject. Happily, my son is out of that period. But I hear my friends in DA really struggling because the least one can give without it “looking really awful” is $20. Yikes!!!! That is a LOT of money, especially if your child has lots of friends.
I take pride (yes, I used that word on purpose) in my gifts and try very hard to buy something the recipient will want. With over three years abstinent in DA this time round, I am now more comfortable being willing. For my great nieces and nephews (there are three, about to be four), I just started creating a separate category for each and now save up $25 a year for each of their birthdays. So I put away $2.08/month per child.
When my son was young (and I was immersed in my disease), I could spend hundreds and hundreds on his birthday, even up to $1,000 or more. But I never saved for anything. So it was really the credit card company buying his gifts for me with money I didn’t have.
This year, I will have a maximum of $80 for his gift because I am also saving up for his college graduation next year and will have $120 for that. $80 is a LOT, I know. But I may not spend that much … and that is truly new behavior for me.
Think Outside the Box
Here’s what I mean. Last year was his 21st birthday. I don’t remember exactly how much I had saved up to spend, But I can assure you it was a paltry amount compared to past years. I was beside myself.
I had to come up with something extraordinary.
So, I decided to write a book about his life. I spent two months writing and gathering pictures. It was the greatest pleasure of my life. 275 pages later … it was finished. I went online and used a service to put the book together. Total cost – under $10 to have it printed AND shipped to me!
In the meantime, I bought him a few small things. My husband gave him some cash, which he really appreciated. He enjoyed my small presents.
But when he opened the wrapping paper and saw the book with a picture of the two of us on the cover, he was speechless. He stood there silently, flipping through the pages for a full two minutes.
Then, with tears in his eyes, he grabbed me and hugged me tightly, wouldn’t let go. And said that this was the greatest present he had ever received.
Now THAT is a gift given AND received.
In the past, I would never have thought about creating something instead of buying it. Now, I have learned how meaningful that can be. So, please open your mind to a new way to think about gifting in recovery.
My next post will cover receiving gifts.