The feeling of gratitude attained when comparing and contrasting our lives before we got sober and after can be a very powerful feeling, especially when a reflection on the holidays reminds us of how we used to be. The following piece of writing is from a member of the New Life House community, Hayden H., about his experience during the holidays prior to joining the community and now, as a part of it.
The Holidays as most people know it is a time for festivities. It’s a time for laughter, giving and receiving gifts, spending time with family, and last but not least, a few great opportunities for socially acceptable indulgences of desserts.
For myself, I grew up enjoying the Holidays with my family. It was a time to eat a lot of cookies and check out all of the presents that were under the tree. I always enjoyed the presents the most. I would rush to the tree on Christmas morning, eager to tear off the wrapping paper of the gifts to see what I got. Clothes were not my favorite but I enjoyed the cool new toys that I could obsess on for a while. Unfortunately, none of those toys ever entertained me for long.
What it was Like
As I grew older I still enjoyed the gifts but the times with my family eating food and playing board games ceased to interest me. I was more focused on hanging out with friends and getting away from my family because I was so uncomfortable around them. Nothing really caused this separation other than the way I lived and looked at my life at the time.
My life seemed normal on paper, I achieved decent grades at school, drove a cool car that I wanted everyone to think was mine but was actually my dad’s, and was great at sports. However, the way I looked at and lived life was a bit skewed. I had everything I ever asked for and nothing was ever quite good enough for me. I lived ungratefully, always seeing what I could gain from the world. As a result, I missed the magic of the Holidays. I was constantly seeking things outside of myself to make me feel great—which is what I want to feel all the time.
I distinctly remember a time one holiday when my family had a huge dinner with friends and family. Although I didn’t see it nor admit it to myself at the time I was very lonely. I could not figure out how to just be happy with what I had and what was going on around me. That certain holiday I found myself alone downstairs hiding from my family drinking beers alone, seeming to have the time of my life. I felt a slight inkling that what I was doing was completely out of the norm, but I merely brushed it off and chased the feeling the alcohol gave me. This feeling was far superior to what the board games or the new toys gave me. I felt like I had just struck gold by swinging my pickaxe exactly where everyone told me not to swing.
This new fabricated feeling of ease became the new grail; I would do whatever it took to achieve and protect this illusive feeling. However, this feeling was finite, and the guilt and shame of the way I lived to achieve this newfound comfort soon caught up with me within the following months of the Holidays. Eventually, nothing I could find would give me this sense of ease and comfort I once found in all of these outside things. In a time of desperation, I sought genuine help and was aided immediately.
What it’s Like Now
I was shown a new way of life. I was shown how to live sober and by spiritual principles. I started to seek inside of myself and to rely on a higher power for happiness, which has in turn given me the most consistent freedom and happiness I have ever felt. These holidays have started off a bit different than usual.
I am doing my best to make them pleasant for everyone else involved, I focus more on what kind of positive energy I can bring to these days rather than what I can take. The Holidays this year are about me being involved rather than withdrawn. It is a new experience but it is one filled with gratitude.
The feeling of loneliness and dissatisfaction I once felt during the holidays seems to have diminished. I have been given a new solution to life and all of its trials and tribulations. I have been given the gift of giving.