Sobriety is a process of change. I had no idea about this when I decided to quit drinking.
I thought that’s all I had to do—quit drinking. I was not prepared to begin a journey of self-reflection and discovery. I didn’t know I would have to look at my behavioral patterns and coping mechanisms. I didn’t realize that everything in my life would change. When I was drinking, I didn’t think much about holidays. To me, the holidays were a time to receive and give gifts, time off from work or school, and some of the biggest drinking days out of the year, and that’s about it. Some would say I missed the whole point of the holiday season.
Now that I am over 3.5 years into my recovery I can say Christmas and all of the holidays are different from what they used to be.
What Christmas Used to Be Like
Often when you’re in active addiction, the days run together. You might forget important dates like anniversaries, birthdays, and Christmas. You might participate in the bare minimum because you have other activities and substances on your brain. This is comparable to what it was like for me. Although I have always gone out of my way to celebrate holidays and birthdays, I would be planning it out in an attempt to spend as little time as possible with my family and friends so I could go out and do what I wanted: party and drink.
I made it my job to find out which nightclubs and bars were open on Christmas Eve and Christmas night; then I went out of my way to convince my sister or any other family members that were visiting to come out and drink with me. I went out and purchased vodka and orange juice so I could be sure we would have mimosas to drink on Christmas because being in the house all day without alcohol gave me anxiety.
“…my thinking was self-centered. I would be looking forward to material things like alcohol and gifts and not care about the spirit of giving and spending time with family.”
When Christmas rolled around, I was already thinking about what party I could attend for New Year’s—it had to have an open bar and be glamorous. To me, staying home on New Year’s Eve was a fate worse than death. I craved loud music, the dance floor, and male attention as much as I did the alcohol. It wouldn’t matter to me if my family were in town visiting, I would just tell them I already had plans and they would just have to deal with it. As you can tell, my thinking was self-centered. I would be looking forward to material things like alcohol and gifts and not care about the spirit of giving and spending time with family.
What Christmas Is Like Now
I didn’t realize Christmas would transform into something much more meaningful than it had ever been in my life once I got sober. Through opening my mind and working on myself, I am now able to see past my own selfish wants and needs. There is a whole world out there that needs my thoughtfulness and kindness, and the same goes for you.
I learned what Christmas is really about for me, which is love, spending time with family and friends, and sharing and giving to others. I look at it as the time of year when I get to reflect on the successes and difficulties from the past 11 months and look forward to what I want to accomplish in the following year.
Alcohol is nowhere on my radar, and that makes me feel free. I no longer have to plan my holidays about a substance or around when bars and nightclubs are open. I no longer need to look up the liquor store hours to make sure I get there to purchase something before it closes for Christmas. I don’t leave my family behind when they are in town visiting to meet friends for a night out. I am not constantly thinking about what gifts I can get and ask for. I am free to enjoy the spirit and beauty of the holiday without being invisibly chained to a bottle.
This year, I plan on doing some research on what my loved ones would enjoy and need and give them those things as gifts. I’ll also take part in the cooking and help out around the house. I will live in the moment that the universe presents to me; because if I’m drinking, I’m not actually living in the moment—I am wishing I am somewhere else.
I feel incredibly grateful I no longer feel the need to escape; that I am no longer on an endless search for more—whether it be parties, alcohol, drugs, or Christmas gifts.
Getting back the ability to see and feel the holidays for what they really are is just one small positive aspect of sobriety. This freedom and ability to live in the moment become a part of everyday life. I call it freedom because I am no longer letting drugs and alcohol rule my life, even at Christmas, and there is no sweeter feeling than that.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.