This Christmas, I’m grateful to be going home and spending time with my family. Everyone is getting together—even the kids who have moved across the country. We will eat some good meals, do a White Elephant gift exchange, and most importantly, relax and enjoy the company—something that is a rare experience for us these days. I’m even more grateful that I’ve gotten to do this for the last few years. But things weren’t always like this. It’s no coincidence that I’ve only been enjoying this for as long as I’ve been in recovery.
In active addiction, the holidays were a rough time for me. I remember one Christmas I spent alone, because my other family members had finally had enough of me being intoxicated and causing problems for them. I was so miserable and lonely, sending self-pitying texts to the friends who were still speaking with me. I even wanted to kill myself—although I didn’t follow through with it, or I obviously wouldn’t be sitting here writing this. It’s funny how something that’s now probably my favorite time of the year used to be the most miserable.
Of course, addiction was never a happy time. I think I experienced depression and anxiety to some degree every single day of my active addiction—except maybe the ones where I managed to stay so obliterated I wasn’t aware of anything. But the holidays were different. It was the time when everything I was missing out on came into focus. When the full realization hit me that I was alone and miserable while everyone else was enjoying their time together and feeling happy.
Recovery is the most important of all the gifts I’ve been given in life. It’s the gift that seems to have pretty much unlimited benefits. I still didn’t get invited to family Christmas my first year sober. I had to go through a long and painful amends process first. I approached everyone I had wronged in turn. I laid out what I had felt I had done wrong, asked them if I missed anything, and offered to do whatever I could to make things right. And for the most part, things worked out well. They were glad to see me doing well, and just wanted me to continue living my life the right way and taking care of myself. So, in a way, I make living amends every day.
I’ve finally been invited back into the fold of my family, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Some of my actions during active addiction were truly awful, so I’m very grateful they were willing to look past them and forgive me. I try to make up for it by making sure to get them good gifts.
So tomorrow, I’ll pack up my things in my car and drive back home to see my family, the people who I care about most in the world. And through recovery, they’ll be just as excited to see me as I am to see them. I’ve come a long way from being messed up and causing a scene several years ago. When I first got sober, I just wanted the pain and suffering to stop. I had no idea that it would give me back everything I missed and cared about.