I had always seen the holidays as an amazing and magical time when I was a child. Getting to see extended family members who I hadn’t spoken with in awhile, the house being lit up with all sorts of lights and music and the energy that exuded from people was contagious. I could feel the energy throughout my home and see it in the faces of my friends with the anticipation of presents.
As life went on the importance of Christmas was lost, I finally realized that Santa wasn’t real and the magic of holiday season was not some supernatural force. Instead Christmas and the holidays became warmth that derived from family camaraderie and the finality of the past year. I’d be disheartened considering the end of a year and the memories I’d had but also looking forward towards the next year and all the potential it had to offer me.
When my alcoholism began to run it’s course in my life, I completely lost a connection with the holiday spirit and that magic energy that had always held such sway over my emotions the whole month of December. The family dinners and outings seemed more a chore than an opportunity to bond with cousins, aunts, and uncles that had played such a pivotal role in my childhood. Now I viewed all these things as nothing more than an obstacle in the way of my addiction, preventing me from going out to realize my true addict and alcoholic potential. I grew resentful in a way towards the occasions I had once held dear to my heart. The only facet of Christmas that wasn’t lost on me was the eagerness with which I looked forward to presents, while even that concept had been corrupted with my bad intentions to use those gifts to further feed my addiction and the diseased lifestyle I was living.
At the end of my run living an alcoholic lifestyle I had completely lost any connection with even my immediate family members. As a result the holidays and month of December became just another month to me, nothing necessarily special about it other than a change in scenery as I saw decorations go up on people’s houses and the weather got colder.
I got sober in the month of April so my first holiday season was at 8 months of sobriety and at this point I had already been through the ringer as far as personal growth is concerned. I had a good footing in my own fellowship and was committed to this way of life and recovery from addiction in general, but even with all this being said, I still had lots of fears regarding the holidays. I didn’t know what to expect and just thinking about spending the holidays in a recovery house made me feel disheartened. It was all too easy to look at the negative side of things as opposed to taking stock of the benefits and opportunities that had been awarded to me by the recovery house and the program of AA.
Every day that got closer to the 25th the fear and anxiety of a holiday in recovery began to dissipate into thin air. I had a building excitement as I consistently spoke to my parents about their eager anticipation to see me for the holidays. At New Life House, we were dedicated to decorating every inch of our home, inside and out. It was a feat but the results were amazing and the experience as a whole further proved to me that my family was right here at the house with me. The holiday spirit was not lost, as the whole time we blasted holiday music and laughed at ourselves. I observed as 30 or so young people in recovery including myself, from all different walks of life and locations around the US, were together in one place learning how to have fun and stay sober for the holidays.
Going down to San Diego to visit my family for Christmas was a memorable experience as well. The shock of being back in my home town for the first time sober meant that everything seemed new and different to me. We ate dinner the night of Christmas Eve and opened presents the next morning, a typical family Christmas that was almost foreign to me, as I hadn’t experienced anything like it in several years. By the end of my stay though, I looked forward to getting back to the recovery house so that I could celebrate Christmas with them as well, because through all of this season the most paramount lesson I learned was that it didn’t matter where I was, that as long as I was living sober, healthy and surrounded by my peers, I could have a great time.
This holiday season I’ve used as a period to reflect on my life currently. I look at the last year and all of the growth thats taken place, the experiences I’ve had, and the mistakes that I’ve made. I look into the future and I set goals for myself, places I want to go and things I want to do. More importantly than ever, I give thanks to my family for their support and love and reinvest in my friendships that may have begun to fall off. So long as I look at the year prior, compared to where I am now and see growth in my personal life, I am content.
It is a period of reflection for me but also a reminder that the holiday season is whatever I make of it. That the location may be different, or the people standing by me may also have changed, but no matter what the case is I can say that I’m not only sober but have also reacquired a little bit of that magic excitement I felt as a kid around this time of the year. Something I thought I had lost forever, but now rediscovered with the help of New Life House and the program of AA.