We are approaching the most special time of people for many people. Christmas is a time for family, gift-giving and reflecting on the year past. It’s usually a very special time for most, but when it comes to those in early recovery, it can be a trying time. The first year of sobriety involves a lot of healing along with creating a new life. Not only must the addict heal but their families and friends need to heal as well.
When many people enter recovery they move away from their hometown to get away from everything and start new. Whether it’s a temporary move or permanent is up to every individual, but in my experience it’s extremely common. With the holidays coming up some people may have to stay separated from families while others will be going back to their own hometown for the first time.
Regardless of what your situation is, I can promise that a Christmas season in recovery will be better than your last while in active addiction. I thought I would share what my last Christmas in addiction looked like compared to my first sober one. It was in comparing both of those that really put a great perspective on my first sober holiday and made me truly grateful.
Last Christmas In Addiction
In December of 2014 I was in South Florida and had caused an extreme amount of damage to my family. I was working for my father the past couple of years prior. In October of that year I got in major trouble for committing several offenses and being the boss’s son couldn’t even save me.
After that, I fled down to Florida from New Jersey. My family wanted nothing to do with me. Thus began the loneliest stretch of my life I would ever see–my mom and dad wanted nothing to do with me, and who could blame them. I had broken their hearts after they gave me yet another amazing opportunity to start my life over.
As December approached that year I was hit with an intense feeling of sadness whenever I thought of Christmas Day. I knew I would be all alone and my family wasn’t even talking to me; I had never felt a sadness quite like that one.
Just like we in recovery need guidelines to follow over something like Christmas, family members need certain guidelines to follow too.
My mom knew she couldn’t talk to me while I was still getting high, she had tried dealing with me for years and it always ended in heartbreak. Getting fired at my dad’s company was the last straw.
Two days before Christmas, I received a box in the mail from who else, my mom. The act itself completely crushed me. Even when she had every right to not even speak to me, she still sent me something for Christmas. I waited until the day of to open everything, that’s when I took this picture:
That was my Christmas in 2014. Looking at the picture now hits my heart real hard. I cried the whole day, just looking at those presents and what my mom had gotten me–small things like socks and underwear. It absolutely crushed me how much damage I had done to her emotionally. That Christmas was one of the most emotionally draining days of my life.
I kept thinking of everyone with their families and friends all smiling and having a good time, and here I was crying in my rented room in South Florida away from everyone with a small care box from my mom who wasn’t on speaking terms with me.
My First Sober Christmas
By the same time next year, my father had devastatingly passed away from a heart attack and thank god that was enough to completely motivate me to get sober. I had to honor him and all he had done for me.
Once December 2015 rolled around I was about 6 months sober and those 6 months had been absolutely magical. My family was back in my life, I was working at my recovery with all my heart and soul, and I finally felt like I had a chance. My one big dilemma was that my mom didn’t want me to go home for Christmas yet, she just didn’t want to risk it. Again, could you blame her? For years I struggled and bounced all over the country trying to get sober. Finally I was somewhere doing well and didn’t want to risk anything.
Of course, I told her it was okay, but inside I was pretty hurt. I felt I was doing a good job and deserved to go home to see my family. The only thing I actually deserved was another day sober but I couldn’t see it that way.
I remember going to a meeting one night in December and something interesting happened, I heard other people sharing about having the same exact experience as me. They wanted to go home for the holidays but their families didn’t want them to. The only difference is that these people had the courage to speak up about it while I isolated myself and didn’t tell anybody about it.
I knew what I had to do. I called up my best friend at the time in recovery who had been sober for several more years than me, and he really made things better with a few simple statements. The most important thing he said to me was that things were not going to be like this forever. I was not going to be away from my family the rest of my life. Basically, he said I was sacrificing this Christmas to ensure I had great holidays the rest of my life.
He said the best gift I could give my mom was a phone call on Christmas and to tell her I love her and am thankful for her. That hit me hard. It helped me tremendously.
On Christmas Day I hung out with several other people who were in the same exact predicament as me. We went to a meeting, went to Denny’s and had a good time. Did I do anything special that day? No. I was with people who were going through the same thing as me though, away from our families on this very special day. It made it so much easier.
I did learn a very important lesson that day, however. I learned that if I just stayed on this road of recovery and did what I was supposed to do rather than doing what I wanted to do, I would be just fine. The right thing to do was to stay in Florida that Christmas, I ended up having a great day and was able to call my mom who I could tell was delighted to hear I was doing well on that very day. Sure, if I went home maybe it would of gone fine, but I can’t deny that it would of been a risk and I know that my mom would not have been comfortable.
The following year I was able to go home for Christmas. I remember sitting that morning in my living room with my brother, mom and grandma opening gifts. I cried, I was so happy. It was one of the greatest moments in my life. I only got there because I did was I was supposed to do up until that moment and continued to.
I’ll be flying up home for Christmas for a full week this year, that’s what I do every year now. It is my absolute favorite thing to do, and I am equally grateful for it every year. This Christmas if you are in early recovery and are unhappy with how it’s shaping out, reflect on what your previous Christmas was like and I can almost guarantee you will be grateful for where you are. After you do that, think about how much better your Christmas next year will be after all the great things you accomplish in this coming year.
Happy Holidays Everyone,
**Please note that this article is written by a person in recovery who has vast knowledge and experience but is not a licensed professional. For professional advice and help please contact MindPath’s Addiction Recovery Center or see a licensed addiction therapist near you.**
Daniel Wittler is a writer in recovery from New Jersey who writes for sites like Stodzy Internet Marketing along with many other sites. Daniel believes absolutely anyone can get sober provided they are ready to take action.
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