In the past, when I was younger I spent a lot of time with my family during the holidays. From Thanksgiving on, I would go to my Grandma’s house and have the whole night with my siblings, mom, dad, aunts and uncle. We had a tradition in my immediate family a few weeks before Christmas, where we would head down to a tree lot deep in Ramona and while my Mom and Dad bought the tree, my siblings and I would go and run and jump around on these huge rocks on the property.
This was always something I looked forward to at the end of the year, but as the years went on the trips down to Ramona felt longer and that huge rock started to get smaller. Around this time I was just turning 13 and I started to do the things that I wanted to do. At the time I didn’t know what it meant to be an alcoholic, I thought it was because my brother went to college, and my sister went to treatment. I didn’t think to talk about any of this – instead I cut off from my parents, and blamed everyone else. I feel like that attitude; the selfish and self-centered way I chose to handle myself, is how I spent the next 4 years of not only Christmas but also throughout the year.
During all of this I never thought about how my parents or sibling were affected by all this but this year will be the first sober holiday I’ve spent with them. Coming into New Life House it didn’t cross my mind to think about how much fun it would be to have a sober holiday and how I would have so many opportunities to make other people’s days brighter. So now that I am coming up on 7 months sober and my family is more involved in my life than these past 4 Christmases, I am genuinely looking forward to getting to spend time with them. If it weren’t for coming up the house and all the effort and time the management, the guys in the house, and my parents have spent with me throughout these months, I’m positive that this month would have been the same as every other year.
I’m grateful for my experience in the house so far, because this Christmas I have the ability to spend time with my Mom and Dad and tell them I love them, get them presents, and setup an entire dinner for them where they don’t have to do anything. I get to go to my brother’s graduation from college, give him hug and look him in the eyes and tell him I’m proud of him because I know the effort that I put into our relationship means something to him. None of this mattered to me at all in the past, I didn’t see a point in it – I thought because it didn’t benefit me directly, it was a waste of time.
What I never saw was that first, my parents have given so much to me even when I put them through hell and back twice and second, that if none one is willing to give without getting something in return, then no one would get anything. I have truly experienced the feeling of participating in the spirit of the holidays by giving of my time or resources freely, without an expectation of getting something in return. The miracle of this sober holiday for me, is to see all the families including my own, getting together – once completely destroyed and hopeless and now happy and laughing for the entire evening. It’s not what I expected coming into New Life House, but I wouldn’t want anything different.
-Ryan F., New Life House member
Last Updated on November 4, 2022