Holidays are supposed to be fun, special and a time for sharing laughs and memories with family. Unless there’s an addict in the house. Then holidays are stressful, sad, maddening and just a couple of weeks one hopes to get through without any major disruption, car crash or arrest.
What a difference sobriety makes! Let me start at the beginning. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s with our son, Connor, used to be a crap shoot. No participation, no caring for others and always looking for the earliest possible moment to get out of the house to feed the addiction. Christmas of 2013 highlighted the issue when Connor’s grandparents drove five hours to be with us on Christmas Day, only for Connor to wake up late and spend just enough time to rip through presents and bolt. “That’s how teenagers are” – or so we rationalized. Totally disheartening and embarrassing as a father.
Five months later, we conducted an intervention with Connor and off he went to treatment at Wilderness Treatment Center in Montana. Sixty days after that, he walked into the front door of New Life House East, and since then holidays have not disappointed. That first Christmas of 2014 was good because at least we knew Connor was in a good place, surrounded by supportive staff and fellow addicts in the early stages of learning and working the program. Connor was actually fun to be around, even joyous. He was beginning to understand that being sober at the holidays was actually fun and meaningful, and that his family is important. I knew when he talked with us that what he was saying was heartfelt and honest. It was a glimpse of him trying to build and re-build relationships with his family that had been eroded over the years.
A year has passed and Christmas of 2015 was epic. Most of Connor’s immediate family, (grandmother, mom, dad, stepmom, stepdad, brothers and step siblings) was able to join him at the New Life House holiday dinner on December 19. We don’t live in California. We all converged on SoCal from Minnesota, New York, Florida and Iowa. A major undertaking, it was. From serving others first, to engaging family and parents in meaningful and fun conversations, to ensuring his family was properly taken care of, Connor was great.
It was also the evening the management scheduled for Connor’s graduation ceremony. Almost emotionally overwhelming, it was a moment I really didn’t know would ever arrive. Listening to Connor address the guys in the house in a meaningful, sensitive and honest way was so satisfying and wonderful.
Just a couple of years ago when Connor left his family on Christmas afternoon, I had no idea where he was going or what to do about it. I have never been so lost. This Christmas, Connor will soon be leaving the house again – but this time in a much better place, clear-headed, with a plan and purpose – and with that twinkle in his eye and wry smile we are all so happy is back for the entire family to enjoy – one day at a time.