Growing up, and until a little over 2 years ago, Christmas to me meant: money, gifts, free stuff, and reasons to drink. For me the holidays were about myself and greed. I looked forward to nights out at the bar with friends who were home, and cheap holiday drink specials. I used to spend weeks making my extensive Christmas list and sending it to my mom with the many things I wanted and was convinced I earned. When I didn't receive what I asked for I would get angry and feel gypped.
If family came to visit us, I would always be too busy to engage in conversation. I would count down the minutes until I could head out to the bar and drink. All the while I would be thinking "this is so stupid" and "why do I have to have meaningless conversations with these people?" As you can tell, I had a complete disregard for my family around the holidays. They were an obstacle to what I really wanted to be doing: getting drunk and going out. Even after I settled down a bit and was dating Fer, I brought him home to Philadelphia for Christmas in 2012. I scheduled out several party nights for us and on Christmas I made sure we had the ingredients to make mimosas. I thought alcohol was the reason for the season. And I loved the holidays for all of these wrong reasons.
Only through recovery and sobriety have I realized how singular and selfish my thinking was back then. Wow, addiction really is a selfish disease. It's like I had tunnel vision and couldn't see out around the tiny scope of my own world. I was only concerned about what the holidays could do for me, not what I could do for the holidays. I realize now looking back how sad my situation was. I really had no concept of feeling joy. Nothing made me happy because I was so miserable deep down inside. I thought I would find happiness in countless Christmas gifts and material items, but to my surprise nothing was ever enough. I did the same with alcohol and drugs - but that trend continued year round. I was constantly looking to fill a void.
Christmas was never a religious holiday for me or my family. The values of Christmas I had been missing all those years were family, gratitude, giving back, and living in the present moment. I had never lived any of those holiday principles during active addiction. In fact, I didn't even know that's what the true meaning of Christmas was.
This year marks my third sober Christmas and I'm finally beginning to understand what it's all about. Spending time with my family isn't a chore anymore, it's what I look forward to doing. It has become a priority for me. This year I didn't even have the time to tell my mom a few things I wanted for Christmas, even after she asked me several times because I was busy working and buying gifts and sending cards to all of the important people in my life. Now that I'm sober I get the privilege of giving love during the holidays and just being grateful to be truly present in every moment. I get excited that I am able to give back, to make a difference in someone's life, to cause my mother to smile, to make my fiancé laugh with a gift, or make my dad cry with a card. I am content to help cook dinner or help around the house because I want to and because it makes others feel good. These are things that have finally become important to me.
In getting sober, I finally got out of myself and opened my eyes and my mind to what was going on around me. There are other people with feelings, wants, needs, and wishes, and Christmas and no holiday, is ever all about me - even my birthday! (as I am reminded by my mother every year that a birthday is just another day on a calendar.) But what a difference sobriety makes, right?
Today Christmas is magical for me. It makes me feel love, joy, and straight up Christmas cheer. I know that I am able to feel this because I am sober, because I am satisfied, because I am no longer on the never-ending search for more. Gratitude has transformed what I have into enough. If I get zero, one, or five presents, that's ok with me. What I look forward to are the feelings I get around the holidays. And that's how I know that I finally love the holidays for all the right reasons.
Peace, love, and light to you and yours during this holiday season!