I love December. I fly home to be with my family for the week of Christmas. It wasn’t always that way. My first sober Christmas wasn’t an easy one, and it isn’t for most people in early recovery. When you first get sober there are usually very strained relationships with the family, and mending those bridges doesn’t happen overnight.
Relationships with families aren’t good when you first get sober, as there probably was a lot of deceit and manipulation in the middle of your addiction. When people enter recovery they should be prepared to go down a long road to win their family’s trust back. I’d like to share my experience with my first sober Christmas to help others.
I was in South Florida and about six months sober. I felt I was on the right path because I was finally doing everything I was supposed to. As November arrived, I had the expectation that I’d fly home for Christmas. Expectations are dangerous in general but especially in early recovery; it can be a breeding ground for resentment. I was on the phone one day with my mom and mentioned coming home. I could tell she wasn’t comfortable with it. She calmly told me it’d be best for me to stay away that year. I didn’t argue but it was devastating.
Who could blame her? I’d been struggling for over a decade and nobody had to deal with my lifestyle more than my mother. She was my rock and always my biggest supporter; I can’t imagine the number of sleepless nights I gave her. It’s just as hard for family members to go through the holidays while you’re in early recovery.
I spent the next month in a funk and feeling sorry for myself. I remember going to a meeting one night in early December and something powerful happened. There were people sharing the exact experience I was having. They weren’t allowed to go home for Christmas and were bent out of shape about it. I knew what I had to do.
I got home that night and called a good friend who’d been sober much longer than me. I told him my tale of woe and he laughed, and gave me a new perspective. He said that we have trouble seeing the big picture, especially those in recovery. We’re so stuck in our heads that we think what we’re feeling will last forever. Obviously, there would be future holidays that I’d be able to go home to my family, just not this one. Sacrificing my holiday season and staying put was to ensure all my holidays in the future would be just how I wanted them.
My first sober Christmas was spent with others in the same position as me, but we spent it together. I didn’t do anything special that day but I’ll never forget it. It’s the day that I realized that if I stayed on the path I was on and don’t get in my own way, I’d be fine for the rest of my life. The best gift I gave myself that day was another day sober.