It's here. The television and radio are talking about it non-stop; it's spreading, and it's only going to get worse. No, not Ebola—the abysmal darkness that descends upon our hearts and souls about this time every year. The Dread Time, the crucible we must navigate before we see natural light, fresh air, and other peoples' shoulders again, the gruesome slog during which we are beset on all sides by overconsumption of all varieties and emotional turmoil of the highest order, the godforsaken Yuletide that cannot be rolled back, whose carolers are drowned out by the wailing of souls, the holly-bedecked hearth of rot and madness: The Holidays.
But Karl, you say to yourself with wavering, feigned resolve, this year won't be like the others. I won't compensate for feelings of regret or loneliness with pounds of rich foods and gallons of questionable, nog-based alcoholic beverages, I won't let the ruinous emotional wounds that I try so hard to ignore all year open and fester and poison my soul, I will not succumb to empty materialism or mindless rote recitation of hollow greetings and false cheerful sentiments to block out the storm of pain and anger within. I won't get into a wine-drunk argument with my sister about Ancient Aliens. No, you brazenly proclaim to the gathering dark and unforgiving sky, this year will be different!
Yet, you and I both know those are lies. It will be the same as every year, empty smiles plastered over pained grimaces, desolation and foul reminders of the bleakness of the human condition on display at every turn. There will be tears, there will be shouting, there will be someone trampled to death at a store by others who yearn for value and savings. There will be terrible music, forced board games, and having to hold in farts for an extended period of time at a table crammed with the people you've been told are your family. But just because it's going to be the same gallery of horrors it always is doesn't mean you have to resort to killing yourself or other people around you. That's the coward's way out, and while it may seem pretty great in the dimmest hours of your misery, hold on. Simply try and observe these helpful guidelines, and you might make it to the dewey, sun-dappled Elysian Fields of springtime with your dignity and sanity intact.
Do Not: Buy a Gun
I know this seems like an attractive option. After all, it's a versatile tool for home and personal defense, it's shiny, and I'm not sure if you've read the Constitution lately, but it pretty much says you're required to own five to seven high-powered rifles. With all those weighty advantages going for it, it seems that you'd be a fool to NOT purchase a firearm. But this is where you need to stop and think critically. What's the more likely scenario: You using your new pearl-handled .45 to thwart a Christmas home invasion or mall-Santa mugging, or you slowly, inexorably, turning the gun on yourself or others after seven whiskeys, five pieces of poundcake, and a yelling match with your father-in-law after he won't stop saying Cosby was "supposed to be one of the good ones?" Leave the sparkling allure of gun ownership to those who can handle it, like that guy who brings an AR-15 into his local Chipotle to show Obama he hasn't won.
Do Not: Go Shopping on Black Friday
We all love savings, and the thrill of wrenching a treasured consumer item from the grasp of our fellow man is truly one of the great thrills in this world, but in the interest of your bodily safety and emotional well-being, you must try and avoid Black Friday like it's a guy outside Trader Joe's holding a clipboard. Yes, if you wade into that melee of materialism you may be able to hack your way through the surging throngs of thrift-oriented shoppers and escape with not only your life, but also deep and meaningful purchases that will bestow happiness and peace upon you and your family. But the price you will pay far exceeds whatever markdown is on the box. Much like going to war, you will see and do things that will irrevocably shake and damage who you are as a person, and you will come home a withered husk of your former self, given to long bouts of depression, pill-popping, and staying up late in the garage drinking and reliving the moment when you saw that man go down in the appliance aisle. So much blood. Who knew a body had that much blood inside of it?
Do: Watch Videos of Animals Reuniting with the People They Love
This is sound advice for pretty much your entire life, but the mental anguish and dehumanization of the holidays make it an especially perfect time to lose yourself in wild beasts reuniting after long years of separation with the brave (and usually white, for whatever reason) people who raised them. As long as your gaze is glued to your laptop, taking in these miraculous lion hugs and meaningful bear cuddles, you will not have the will and resolve to actively strangle others. I mean, have you ever seen an elephant cry with joy? When the boiling rage begins to rise, when the black-winged demon of isolation begins to circle, open your laptop and bask in the pure loving energy of nature's perfect killing machines being reduced to emotional children or daytime talk-show guests. It may just be the salve your fractured psyche needs to hold on for one more day. Just don't read the comments.
Do: Drink Heavily
Now, this one may may seem counterintuitive, as alcohol abuse is directly correlated to nearly every single thing you're trying to avoid during these cursed months, whether it be depression, weight gain, or falling asleep under various pieces of furniture. But let me assure you that without a large and steady supply of booze, you will not make it through this. The key is pacing. Sure, it seems an desirable, almost necessary course of action to aggressively pound plastic-bottle rotgut as soon as your aunt once again asks what exactly it is you're doing with your life, but this could lead to burnout, whisky fatigue, or even worse, telling people how you really feel about them. In this endless winter hellscape, it's all about slow and steady. An eggnog here, a brandy there, five beers hurriedly pounded in the basement while your mom thinks your getting the cranberry sauce—you've got to plan ahead. You're in it for the long haul, and if you want to make it past New Year's Eve without cirrhosis, a court-ordered breathalyzer on your car's ignition, or a black eye from when you called that dude Greg at the office party "basic," you need to learn how to imbibe intelligently. Pro tip: Invest in a flask, the most genteel, low-profile way to bring your substance abuse issues with you wherever you go.
With these simple yet effective rules under your ever-tightening belt, you just may have a chance. I would say I believe in you, but that would be a lie. Like all of us, you're doomed. But that doesn't mean you must willingly cast yourself into the gaping Stygian chasm that opens ever wider even as you read these very words. No, you must ready yourself for the coming onslaught as best as possible, gather your mental resolve and emotional fortitude, swig some Old Grand-Dad in the bathroom, watch a lady named Amythest tongue-kiss the wolves she raised from pups, keep your mouth shut and your head down, push forward, and before you know it, you just may find yourself somewhere in mid-March, dazed, pale, hungover—but alive.
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