We are finally in the month of December. It's the end of another year and a time for family and celebration, for most of us anyways. There is a particular group of people that struggle with this joyous season, those in early recovery from drugs and alcohol face a lot of emotions that are hard to deal with this year. Why you ask? People still in their first year of recovery and going into their first Christmas/New Year season still have a lot of healing and repairing to do. Not only with themselves but with their families.
It's no secret that those with substance abuse issues very commonly have strained relationships with family. There is usually a lot of deceit and manipulation and just because someone is finally getting sober and on the right path, doesn't mean they will earn trust right away. I'll never forget my first Christmas season in sobriety. I was about 6 months sober and feeling amazing about my sobriety and really felt like this time was the real deal and I would finally build a real life. I had been struggling the past 5 years trying to get sober and failing pretty miserably.
Since that was the case, my family naturally was skeptical even when I was doing well because in the past the other shoe always dropped and I would go back to my old ways. So when I was at 6 months sober this time I was in Florida while all my family was in New Jersey, I had just assumed my mom would love to have me for Christmas because I was finally doing well.
That wasn't the case however, I could tell she was afraid to tell me she thought it was better if I just stayed in Florida for this Christmas, I didn't argue, how could I blame her for how she felt? I was heart-broken though, it was such a blow to my ego that can develop when you first get sober. You feel unstoppable and on top of the world but the problem is your reality is that you have a long road of repairing and healing ahead of you and it's not going to be on your time, why should it be?
My mom broke the news to be that November so I spent the next month sulking and not telling anybody about it. I was afraid to, I thought people would judge me that I wasn't allowed to go home for the holidays, that's just how the ego in recovery works. We worry so much about our image to others and it can really cripple you if you keep your true negative emotions inside of you.
My drug rehab I attended had an alumni group that would meet once a week and I remember going to the group in early December that year and I heard several other people having the same problem as me. They were on the right track but couldn't spend the holidays with their family because they just weren't comfortable enough with it yet.
The funny thing is, when I heard other people talk about it, it made perfect sense to me why they weren't allowed to go home. So why couldn't I have the same perspective with myself? That night I called my sponsor and finally spilled the beans at how truly upset I was that I couldn't go home for Christmas. He made a great point that really stuck with me.
He told me that making the sacrifice this year of staying away from family this year would ensure that all my future holidays could be spent how I wanted them to. I'm not sure how but I never thought about it like that. My life wasn't always going to be like this, I wasn't always going to be stranded from my family. I simply had to continue on the path I was on and things would be okay, I would be okay.
That Christmas I spent with many others in recovery who were stuck away from family just like me, we didn't do anything special but we spent the day together laughing and sharing stories from previous holidays that went terrible because of our addiction. It was that day, Christmas day, that I knew I would be okay if I just stuck to the plan I had made for myself. It was the best gift I could give myself that year.