Surviving Your First Sober Holiday | Guest Post by Daniel Wittler
Entering recovery means you’re going to inevitably run into a lot of difficult ‘firsts’. One of the most difficult may be entering your first winter holiday season. We are talking about Thanksgiving, Christmas (or any other holiday you celebrate at this time) and New Year’s Eve. It’s a time when there is lots of celebration and family time and while on the outside that looks good, it could be terrifying for the newly sober alcoholic and addict who is just trying to navigate through their newly found emotions.
For most, time around the family is a special time if you aren’t normally together. In recovery being around family the first few times can be a trying experience. It’s nobody’s fault, they are used to seeing you in a bad condition and can be justifiably worried and paranoid being around you. Without any bad intentions on either side, it can make for some tense moments, which nobody wants.
I’m not here to tell you exactly what you should do this upcoming holiday season, I’m here to give you my personal experience and also touch on what I’ve seen happen to other people in my nearly 5 years sober.
Let me make one thing clear that I hope can help anyone reading this if your first holiday season is approaching and it isn’t shaping up how you want it to. If you can’t be near your family or if you aren’t able to afford presents for everyone like you had hoped or whatever it is, you need to remind yourself of one key thing.
This isn’t forever.
You aren’t going to be away from your family forever, you are not going to be broke forever and you definitely won’t feel this way every holiday season! My biggest issue my first Christmas sober was that I had to stay down in South Florida, away from my family in New Jersey. I hated it, I was 6 months sober and I thought that I deserved to be there with my family for all my hard work.
I was wrong. So wrong.
There were countless Christmas’s I made unpleasant due to my addiction, plenty of times I came up with no presents for my family even though I got some. The only thing I truly deserved was another day sober. I was lucky to be able to say I was sober and on the right path. A close friend of mine put things in great perspective, he told me that spending this Christmas away from family was going to insure the rest of my holiday seasons in the future would be everything I wanted. That made so much sense to me and was something I could hang onto.
Why didn’t my family want me around for Christmas that first year? I never asked but I know they had every right to feel that way. If you are facing the same thing don’t make it a big ordeal because deep down you know exactly why they feel that way. Making an episode of it is so counteractive and irresponsible.
I spent my first Christmas in 70-degree weather in South Florida, which made it weird. You know what though? It was a pretty great day. I spent the day around others in recovery who were facing the same situation as me and we were able to support and laugh with each other about it. It was good to know I wasn’t the only one ‘missing out’ on Christmas. I got to talk to my mom who made it clear she was just so happy she can celebrate a Christmas without having to worry about whether I’m okay or not.
When she said that I realized what was important. She was important, my family’s peace of mind was important. So many years I spent living a dangerous lifestyle and they had to walk with a constant fear in their hearts and mind. That ultimately led them to staging an intervention and praying to god I would get help and not die. Not anymore. That first Christmas I knew as long as I stayed on my path that things would slowly but surely get better, I knew that in my heart.
My second Christmas I got to go home, I will never forget that morning. I vividly remember sitting in a reclining chair and just scanning the room full of my family. They were smiling and opening presents as Christmas music filled the room. It was the first time I genuinely had a happy-cry in my life. I was so unbelievably grateful to be there. The only reason I got to that point was that I let myself. I had promised myself to do what I had to do the year before to get there.
As we are approaching this holiday season, if you find yourself getting on the pity-pot or getting upset that things aren’t going to play out as you had envisioned. Just remind yourself, you are sacrificing what you want now to ensure your holiday seasons in the future will be everything you ever wanted. The path is set out in front of you already, you just need to keep walking it.