And, just like that, Christmas is nearly over. All the build up, all the anticipation, all the angst, and it’s over in less than a day. I have remarked to friends in the past that the entire fall sometimes feels compressed, as if time gets accelerated and there’s not enough of it between September and December. As if the entire fall is a run up to Christmas. And then, it’s over.
In part, I believe this has to do with the waning of the light in the Northern Hemisphere. From June 21st to December 21st we actually lose minutes of daylight each day, but it never feels linear, even if, in fact, it is. Part of this is the effect of abandoning Daylight Savings Time, now in November. Funny, that we humans like to control our clocks so much that we fuss with the time twice a year in the name of “saving” daylight.
The things we anticipate rarely meet our great expectations.
In truth, I had a great Christmas. And I feel better tonight than I’ve felt at the end of a Christmas day in a long time.
I got a a few gifts that I really wanted, and some really thoughtful gifts from my extended family. I gave gifts that people really wanted and I relished watching my son enthusiastically un-wrap gifts that I swore I wasn’t going to get him. I thoroughly enjoyed listing to my 6 year old nephew bang on his new drum set, not once, but twice.
We had a wonderful meal at my family’s house. Mom roasted a rib roast and it came out perfectly. We had plenty of side dishes which were all lovely and copious options for desert. I saw my aunt and my uncle and talked to some extended family we don’t see often on the phone.
And still, there’s a slight pang. A slight remorse that it’s all over. A slight feeling that it wasn’t good enough. Maybe a feeling that I’m not good enough. A feeling that Christmas will never be what it once was.
And it won’t. It won’t because I’ll never be a child again. I’ll never have the excitement that comes from a belief in a jolly old elf who delivers presents to children around the world for no apparent reason. Christmas will never be as big as it once was.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay because it’s my turn to do for someone else what was done for me. Life is like that sometimes.
Recovery is like that. We give others what was freely given to us. We accept the newcomers as we were accepted. We give the advice that we were given. We shine a light and offer hope.
And sometimes, we are rewarded for these efforts. Sometimes, we get to see the changes in someone else.
Christmas actually came early for me this year. In the 48 hours before Christmas, I got news from two friends who have chosen to enter the world of recovery. One had spoken to me on and off a few times about getting sober. The other was a complete surprise. Both told me that my writing helped them, inspired them, to seek a new life.
And that’s why I share my story, here and in person. To show others that there is a way out. That we can have a great life. One that exceeds our wildest expectations.
This was my third Christmas sober. It was much easier than my first, and somewhat easier than my second, but I’ll be honest, it’s still hard. Christmas brings up feelings. Feelings of loss, nostalgia, and even fears. Fears that things might never be like they were. Fears that my best years have passed me by. Fears that I’ll lose the people closest to me.
But I have tools to manage these feelings today. After my son woke us up at 5:17 AM and we opened presents in the dark, I baked some scones and fed the family. Then I got myself on line and found a meeting to go to. There weren’t many folks there at 9:00 AM, but it only takes two alcoholics to have a meetings so it didn’t matter. I got a chance to listen to others. I got a chance to voice my concerns for the day and to express my gratitude.
And gratitude is what I feel most tonight. Gratitude smothers the pangs. I’m grateful for a third Christmas sober. I’m grateful that I’m doing the right things. I’m grateful that my son loves me and thinks I’m the greatest dad in the world — even if I’m not sometimes. I’m grateful that my wife stuck by me — even through the worst of my drinking. I’m grateful that I’ll be going to bed soon with a clear head and a clean conscious.
Most of all, I’m grateful for another day.