I was at a gratitude meeting yesterday and I was thinking how grateful I am that this will be my 12th Sober Christmas! The baffling part to me is that I can’t remember all of these Sober Christmases. I think my memory is failing me lately (hello – 50 is just around the corner!) I can share though that each of those Christmases were filled with gratitude, love and serenity. Since I’ve gotten sober I haven’t had any drama during the Holidays, and it’s not because some of it wasn’t around me, it’s because of the way I chose to manage it.
My first sober Christmas was back East with my family and there was drinking involved and it was challenging, but I would only stay for a couple hours and would focus on being present and spending time with my nieces and nephews and absorbing the holiday cheer that was being celebrated. I’m sure I went to a lot of meetings, smoked a lot of cigarettes and called other sober women, because that’s how I dealt with my life in early sobriety. I still had those feelings of being awkward and uncomfortable and wishing that I didn’t have to count others drinks or wonder why didn’t finish their wine, or worry I’d pick up the wrong glass. But in time, it got easier and easier as I was racking up more sober time.
The next few Christmases were spent in San Diego with friends, as the travel and craziness of going back East was getting to be too much. I had choices now and I could make decisions that were healthy for me and my recovery. These sober Christmases were spent with friends and they were warm, inviting and serene. I started taking care of myself on how I wanted to spend the Holiday. I didn’t make excuses and I became a real adult who was able to show up for me.
A few years later I moved back East and met my husband and the next few years were spent with his kids and my family and they were stressful and hurried and there was not much peace and serenity there. I struggled a lot during those Christmases, but I had to realize that it wasn’t about me, it was about the kids and spending the last two Christmases with my ailing Mother until she passed away. That alone was an immense gift and I was able to be sober through all of it.
Through the years we moved around a bit and were away from family, but we were always welcomed into friends’ homes and I was able to participate and be of service – because in the end isn’t that what it’s all about?
This year is our first Christmas back in San Diego, and we have places to go and friends to visit and I’m so lucky for all that I have in my life today. It may not be much materially, but my heart is full and the gratitude I have is enormous. Each year that gratitude grows, just as my recovery does and I’m reminded of those crazy past Christmases where I just wanted to drink and get away from my family and go do what I wanted to do and consume what I wanted to consume. I barely remember any of those, but I do remember the feelings of being less than, and the shame, remorse and guilt that always followed the next morning. So yes, I have that memory – which is one of the greatest assets I have in my sobriety, my past. We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it. And I will see how my experience can help others. That’s my Christmas wish today.