Making Sober Holidays Magical

Making Sober Holidays Magical

As a child, my holidays were magical.  I grew up with a grandmother who knew how to turn her house into a Christmas fairytale.  We spent hours making Gingerbread houses from scratch (no joke), decorating tables as a Christmas wonderland – fake houses, streets, people and snow- and only went to tree lots that allowed us to cut down a fresh tree.  

And Christmas wasn’t the only holiday she elaborately celebrated – we held softball games at the park for Fourth of July, costume parties at her house for New Year’s and Thanksgiving feasts that my grandmother hand cooked herself that served sometimes 20 people.  I always loved holidays, because it always meant a new and wondrous surprise from my grandmother.

As I got older, I still loved the holidays but after discovering the delicious alcoholic beverages that accompanied the festivities, became more interested in getting drunk than I did spending time to prepare with my grandmother.  The Christmas after my senior year of college I came home after a horrible break-up (of course alcohol was the main factor) and was so agitated I ignited the first and only family fight we’ve ever had while together on a holiday.  Of course, I was being “attacked” and had to “defend” myself.  The next year, my grandmother passed away suddenly.

It was after her passing that holiday’s became painful.  For the next five years it was an excuse for me to relive the pain of not having her and more so to drink and drug as much as I could handle.   I loved my grandmother more than anyone on this planet because she loved me more than anyone on this planet.  Her death felt like half of my soul was ripped away from me.  That kind of pain I had never felt, nor would dare allow myself to feel.  I drank and used and drank and used and holidays became uncomfortable for me to attend and uncomfortable for my family to watch me attend.  I would leave thinking how rude their judgment was.  In reality, they knew something was wrong and were only expressing their concern that their beloved daughter, sister, niece and cousin was turning into a different person.

Fast forward to November of 2013 – the first sober holidays that I would spend with my family in years.  I won’t lie, it was hard.  I was only a few months clean and I was crawling out of my skin.  So many of the memories of my old behavior crept in.  I couldn’t even appreciate the fact that I was able to suit up and show up.  However, this didn’t last.  I started to work the 12 steps and made my amends.  I wrote my grandmother numerous letters and was able to make peace with the fact I did not spend the time I wished I had with her, before her death.  This year will be my third sober set of winter holidays (yay!) and I have AA and the 12 steps to thank for this.  Not only do I count down the days again, but I am spearheading our family Christmas – making the arrangements for us to meet, eat and give out presents.  I want to make the time we spend together magical, just like Grandma did.

-Ashley S., New Life House alumni’s family member


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