This year marks another holiday season in recovery that I’m getting to experience. As I got to New Life House just one short week before Thanksgiving initially, my first time through the holidays in recovery was awkward, uncomfortable and unnerving to say the least. But before then I was reluctant to even be present.
The holidays before I entered New Life House West LA consisted of an obligatory visit to my parents’ or relatives’ house – present, albeit high on whatever I could get my hands on at the time. I would entertain my parents for one minute with a story about work, exaggerated to the point of absurdity in order to make me look good, and be drinking like a fish behind the bar the next. I would often come late, make a fool of myself and leave early. I took the holidays and the time they afforded to reflect on gratitude for granted; for me they only meant free alcohol and possibly a $20 bill slipped under the table from an enabling grandparent.
My first experience in the house with the holiday season in recovery left me wanting, yet provided me with a glimpse of what was possible as far as a relationship with my family was concerned if I chose to accept this way of life. My parents did not attend my first Thanksgiving here, but I was able to meet and talk with graduates, parents and friends of the program and see just what it was about this place that made them come back. I was left with a better sense of belonging and understood what it meant to show up by witnessing the great examples that were my newfound roommates.
The past couple years in recovery, the holidays meant something to me that I had at some point lost along the way; something absent yet not forgotten. What I had mislaid was my gratitude. That inherent sense that is deep within all of us if we choose to recognize it, where we are content with what we have instead of focusing on what we do not. In my disease, I had been a shell of a human being, only using my family and friends as a means to help me get what I wanted. Now these people are the ones who support and help me live a life of meaning and service. Through the tools and principles that I have come to receive and know from Alcoholics Anonymous, I have been able to show up for the people who have stood with me along the way, even when I did not deserve it.
My sincere hope is that each and every one of my brothers in sobriety will be able to experience what it means to have their family back in their lives, accentuated by this time of year and what it represents. New Life House West LA has provided the path for me to achieve as well as to have a newfound regard for gratitude.