Many of us have memories of beers from Christmas past.
The holidays can be a precarious time for many of us in recovery. Especially for those who may be just beginning their recovery. The season brings back memories that can be hard for us alcoholics and addicts to process. It can be a time that puts the focus on family discourse that is often present in early recovery. Many of us think of what used to be, the fun and revelry we miss out on. We get stuck pondering on the beers from Christmas past.
I have always loved the holidays. When I started drinking they became even more festive yet fleeting. An excuse to over indulge in the adult beverage of my choice became my season greeting. Like I needed another excuse to have some beers, any day ending in Y was full of good reason. In time it went from moments of celebration to times of masking the pain that life had begun to awaken inside me.
Christmas of 1999, was my first memory that I can say really showed the alcoholic path I was headed down. I was in the midst of a divorce from my first wife and she had taken the kids to her parents. It was my very first bout with isolating and drinking. The loneliness surrounded me with walls that kept creeping in, driving me to insanity.
My drinking only heightened my depression.
It was Christmas Eve and I was in a very unfamiliar place. Using my best logic, I decided it best for me to run to the grocery store and get something to celebrate with. I ended up with a case of beer, a bag of chips, and a jar of cheese dip. As much as I tried to pretend that I was fine, with each beer I drank the depression of my situation strangled me.
I awoke the next morning with a beer still in my hand. I had chips and cheese dip all down the front of my sweater. Awakening to the sound of deafening silence, it tried to penetrate my senses to the absurdity of it all. But being the professional drinker in training that I was I made sense of the insanity. I soon convinced myself that all was well.
You think this time I might have known better.
I wouldn’t have another Christmas like that for 10 years. But in 2009, my Christmas would become a version I would call again, beers from Christmas Past. Going through another divorce, and a heavy drinker at this point, I found myself repeating the insanity once again. Alone, without my children, it became absolutely logical to spend Christmas eve with a case of beer and pack of cigarettes.
The holidays that had once been such a memorable and sincere time for me had become a season of depression and deep pain. It was the time of year I hated as it reminded me of everything I had become and all that I was not. The more I drank to find that festive feeling the more lost that love for the Christmas spirit would become. I had chosen alcohol as my spirit and Christmas had been vanquished.
In 2014, I was 9 months sober heading into Christmas. Thanksgiving had not gone so well, my family was still trying to come to terms with my alcoholism and I was learning that mending family fences would be harder than I wanted it to be. I decided to stay home for Christmas, alone in my apartment. The difference would be the beers of Christmas past would be replaced by acceptance of Christmas present and excitement of Christmas future.
Acceptance began to hold all of my answers.
I spent two days reflecting on all that I had and not what I had lost. Formulating plans on what I could do to be the best father, son, brother, etc. It was one of the first times that I had not played the pity party card and saw it as an opportunity to grow in my sobriety and become stronger. My sons came by that evening and we were able to have dinner. Met a few close friends later that evening for true fellowship. Finally the spirit of Christmas had begun to return.
Today, I look forward to the Christmas season, with a boyish enthusiasm. I have found my Christmas spirit in sobriety. Life is becoming more than I ever dreamed it could be. The promises of living a life of purpose and living it right, appear more and more. Shopping for presents, my kids and family, the music, food, and smells, all of it brings a serenity to my heart I cannot describe.
Give yourself the gift of sobriety this Christmas.
This Christmas, if you are struggling in recovery or in active addiction, do not isolate. There are many of us who understand and have gone through what you are now going through. Reach out, we are every where and willing to help you. Take a break and find a little Christmas spirit. Contact me or anyone else you know. Give yourself a gift that never ends, give yourself sobriety this Christmas.