I can remember my worst Christmas very clearly. It was several years ago and I was at the bottom of a long, downhill slide into addiction. Most of my family was no longer talking to me, but my mom was still letting me stay at her place. I had managed to scrounge up some money, so I had enough drugs and alcohol to stay comfortable, but not enough to blot out the feeling of how miserable I was. No one wanted to see me. I had no job, few friends, and there was no sign of anything getting better. Taking my own life was beginning to seem like a better and better idea. But I would soon give myself a gift— the gift of recovery. That would be the last Christmas I spent in active addiction.
It sounds a little ridiculous, but recovery is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s hard to even count how many good things have happened to me since getting sober. Sometimes it seems like I wake up every day with something new and awesome going on. My family talks to me again, for one thing. Not only that, but I get invited to events and they miss me when I can’t make it. It’s a little bit weird to think about.
I wish I could say I got all my old friendships back, but that wouldn’t be true. I reached out and made amends where they were called for (which was pretty much everywhere). That goes without saying. But sober me was in a very different place from the version of me that was drinking and drugging every day. I just didn’t have that much in common with the people I had been spending my time with anymore. They had their own struggles that I was finally, blissfully free of. I never realized how bad some of those relationships were for me until I was on the other side of them.
I got something better instead. I started going to meetings and participated in fellowship afterwards. I became part of a recovery community. I got to build new relationships with other member of that community. Unlike my old friends, they’re there for me when I need it most. I never feel alone now-- it always feels like I’m part of something. I even stay in contact with some of the guys I first went through rehab with.
When I decided to go back to school and move across the country, I did the same thing again. I’ll admit it felt lonely at first to leave the city I got sober in and move to where I didn’t know anyone in recovery, but I kept going to meetings and joined the student recovery organization. Today, my network of supportive friends is just as strong as it ever was.
This Christmas, things look a lot different. I’m staying with family, enjoying the sunshine in the South (a nice contrast from the freezing temperatures and snowstorms of my day-to-day life in the Midwest). Everyone is happy to see me—they’re not worried about me raiding their purses or medicine cabinet. The biggest sign of what has changed? I saw codeine syrup on the counter and I wasn’t even temped to drain half of it and water it down.