As long as I can remember, Christmas time was the highlight of my childhood, as the anticipation of a magical morning came slowly from expectation to reality. My parents always had the fireplace lit, a special treat and a multitude of presents for us each year.
I remember not being able to sleep at all those nights with the door to my room covered with paper so I couldn’t get out. My parents knew my sneaky and conniving mentality and how to be one step ahead of me. The spirit of togetherness held magic around our household and often times our extended family would spend time at our house for the holidays. If we didn’t have tons of family spending the holidays with us, we had plans with a variety of close family friends to eat and celebrate together. I can’t remember anything not going according to plan as we enjoyed the spirit of giving and each other’s company. The years after I started drinking and using however were all together entirely different.
Christmas and the time surrounding the holidays after I started getting high quickly became unbearable. I would skimp presents together to justify to myself that I deserve the abundance of gifts I would have that morning. I would tune my family out and do what I wanted during the post-presents celebration. I would quickly become upset that I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my friends and just expect that I could spend as much time away from my house as possible. I hated Christmas Music and most of all having to go to church that one time of the year. I was totally focused on myself and what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it.
I used to be the Grinch around Christmas time, and can say now that when I was faced with looking over the edge of the mountain, that I had a change of heart. Never can I repay the gift that I have been given to take a second look at what my life was and be given an opportunity to turn it around. I now have the opportunity to spend the holidays with my family and spend time giving back to my community. I have been taught to show up for my responsibilities and today life is living life free from drugs and alcohol. The process to arrive at this point was not simple, and it was nearly impossible to be a part of life two Christmas’ ago.
I bring up the way my holidays used to be because I had no clue just how representative of the underlying tone of my addiction it was. Towards the end of my drinking and using, I was getting high and lying to my family’s faces during a time when my family all thought I was sober. I wanted to skip out on family time on Christmas night to go get high. I had spent the whole day with them, and thought I deserved a break. I was completely irresponsible and incredibly selfish, and my parents most definitely had caught on to what I was doing. December 26th, 2012 just seven months after being pulled out of college, I found myself without a place to live and had no clue why my life looked the way it did. I had been caught one more time with a dirty drug test, and had no way to escape the truth that I had a problem. My parents knew it would take me figuring my life out on my own, and they couldn’t let me live at their house any longer. The Al-Anon solution to the family problem was to cut me out of their lives until I was willing to get help. I felt devastated and left San Diego with my tail between my legs and no plan of how I was going to sleep inside on a nightly basis. I wound up back in Los Angeles where my drinking and using career really took off. My disillusioned plan was to get back in to school and prove my family wrong. The truth behind my life was that I couldn’t live holding down a minimum wage job, or maintain a healthy relationship with the girl that I dated for three years. I spent every dollar I made on getting high or drunk and couldn’t even pay rent in the apartment I was living in for free. After three months of incomprehensible demoralization and driving my life into the ground I finally asked for help. I knew that help from my parents wasn’t exactly what I wanted (paying for a long term structured sober living) but I could not continue living the way that I was. Once again I was given a gift from my parents; even when I had pushed them near the end of their patience and love with me.
My road on recovery has been anything but easy and simple, but what I have had is a consistent knowledge that I had support and my family in my corner. Last Christmas I was at home with my support not knowing if New Life or sobriety were in my future. I did know that my time spent with them reminded me a lot of my youth when problems vanished and everything was about the excitement of the holiday. For the first time in a couple of years I felt at peace with the moment of being with my family and experiencing their excitement as my own. I felt an immediate urge to repay them the gift that they had given me with an opportunity to go to New Life. I realized in that moment that they ultimately did know what was best for me and chose to kick me out for my own best interest. Not only that, but I had no clue how to express my gratitude for them showing me unconditional love time and time again. Another year later, I still am continuing to expand my relationships with my parents and little sister, despite this being a challenging time for us as a whole. The spirit of togetherness and love that we feel towards each other cannot be measured by the typical words you would find on paper. It was a dark time that we have emerged from and bonded together as a result of the hardships that I put them through.
My time this holiday will be spent giving back to a community who doesn’t have the type of Christmases that my family has. This opportunity to go extend a hand and contribute to a little kid getting a gift and seeing the excitement on their face is priceless. In the past my family tried to get me to participate in giving back to the community but I wouldn’t want anything to do with it. This kind of act reminds me how important it is to do things for other people throughout life, which I learned in Alcoholics Anonymous. I can’t begin to explain how crucial it is that my life be spent giving back and helping other people find success and happiness. Now I actively seek out service and look for AA panels to speak on, or go to high schools and share my experience.
This year I get to see Christmas from a working member of society’s viewpoint and I will be working both Christmas Eve and the morning Christmas Day. I am extremely excited about this because I have the opportunity to visit my family for a few days after the holiday craze surrounding that day at work. I am able to work those seemingly unfortunate shifts so that my coworkers can have time to be with their families.
Written by Alex S.
New Life House West Alumni