When I first arrived at New Life House East, I wanted to leave immediately. I didn’t want any part of what I saw there. And, that wasn’t because people didn’t welcome me, or because people made me feel like I didn’t fit in. It was because I have always had to do something to be accepted, or be someone I wasn’t. I was used to being the odd one out. That wasn’t the case at the sober living.
When I entered the house, I was immediately greeted by an array of handshakes and a bunch of friendly faces. Everyone tried to welcome me in, but I didn’t want any of it because I was skinnier than everyone, I had long hair, and I made up every excuse in the book of why I wouldn’t fit in… After getting past all the excuses, and reservations I made up in my head, I soon found a way of life I could only have dreamed of before.
Now that we’re nearing Christmas, it really starts to bring back a lot of memories. It was around this time of year that I really started to view the sober living as more of a home, and less of a place to live. I also started to see the people I lived with as a family, and less like I had 30 roommates. Because of this growing bond I had with my friends in the house, it started to feel like Christmas was becoming real to me again. Up until that point, all I really had was memories of Christmas in my past with my family. All the lights, and the tree, and the presents. I clearly remember seeing my family all happy and feeling that warm holiday joy. Eventually, all of that started to slip away because of my drinking and using, as I started to distance myself from my family and started to do “my own thing”. Luckily in sobriety I got the warm holiday feeling back, plus a lot more.
I have a lot of memories of last year’s Christmas in the sober living. I remember all of the lights, and the tree, and the presents, just like it was when I was young. The best thing about all of it though, is that behind everything during the holiday, there is a story and an image to remember. During that December, I was working at a wholesale Christmas tree lot with two of my friends from the sober living. It was an extremely difficult, and physically taxing job, but it was one of the best times I had in the house because I had a chance to build a great relationship with my friends that I worked with. There are far too many stories to tell about my experience working with them at that tree lot. But, one thing that I remember was that I was able to pick out the huge Christmas tree that we put in the house that Christmas. It was a great feeling to go with the house manager and pick it out, and feel like I made a real contribution to the Christmas spirit that year.
Christmas was a great time for everyone in the sober living, because we all got to participate. At New Life House, we all put up the lights, and the decorations. We all got gifts for our “Secret Santas”, and we all were a part of everything that happened that holiday season. But what really made it magical was the fact that there were 30 recovering alcoholics doing all of this. That’s 30 alcoholics scrambling around with strings of lights, gifts, and decorations. Can you seriously imagine what it was like to watch this? I’ll tell you, it was pretty hilarious! I also remember being somewhat new in the house, crammed in a car with 4 other guys, driving to the mall to go get gifts for our families and our “Secret Santas”. We were playing music, and cracking jokes and made even the smallest car drive to the mall feel like an adventure.
After the majority of the month being spent buying gifts, and hanging lights, it finally became Christmas. On Christmas, me and one of my close friends in the house went on pass to go visit my family. It was amazing to actually sit down with my mom and little sister, and feel that holiday vibe again. Giving gifts, and receiving them, and just enjoying my family and friends’ company was a huge change from the life I was living before the house. The memories from my childhood felt very much real again, and I got to see the true meaning of Christmas in action. It was great to sit around the tree, and play video games with my little sister later in the day. It was even better to get to watch my friend get shamed while playing Dance Dance Revolution on the Wii by my little sister, (and even getting forced into doing it myself).
After saying goodbye to my family and heading back to the New Life House, it was great to sit around the front room with all the other guys and watch TV until everyone else got home from their passes. We all shared stories about our experiences with our families, and people laughed at me and Connor for having to dance in a video game in front of my family. It was awesome to look around and see a room full of smiling faces that had just spent time with their families.
Later on we all did the house “Secret Santa”, where we each buy a gift for another guy without anyone knowing who it came from. We all have to guess who gave us the gift, and it turns into a loud, laughing affair. That Christmas, my “Secret Santa” bought me a big package of the brightest colored Ralph Lauren socks I’ve ever seen. It may seem ridiculous to buy your friend socks for Christmas, but he did this because when I first came into the house I would only wear dark black and grey clothing, and had an attitude and demeanor to match them. It was funny to hold up a bunch of socks for show to the rest of the guys at the time, but I definitely plan on sending a picture of me wearing the brightest neon green pair out to him on Christmas morning this year!
So, between lights, trees, rides to the mall, Dance Dance Revolution, and neon colored socks I had a Christmas I will never forget. Now that I’m an out of house alumni, I get to take what I learned about myself and the holidays out, and spread the holiday joy to others. This would never be possible without the time I spent with all of my friends in New Life House, and for that I am extremely grateful. It seems like I found the community I always wanted while in sober living, but more than that I found a home. Plus, the biggest extended family anyone has ever seen.