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Happy and Sober for the Holidays

Author: Justin Mckibben

I got sober on Thanksgiving. I entered rehab for the second time on the 28th of November, and this year the holidays have been especially amazing for me, even though I am living miles away from my family, I feel at home. I actually was anxious about how I would be spending the holiday season without being back in my home town, and I spent a lot of time reflecting on how things were so different from the holidays before I got sober.

The holidays can be a tough time for a lot of addicts and alcoholics, even in recovery for those who are newly sober and struggling.  All I can do is relate my experience, and what I found to be true when I looked back on the time I spent at home for the holidays drinking and getting high, versus the time I spent in recovery as part of that community.

Being High on the Holidays was Hurting My Family

When I used to show up to the family gathering, and sneak off to get high in the bathroom or the back-yard, I wasn’t always being as slick as I thought. I can only imagine the pain it caused the people who had watched me grow, raised me and shared so many holidays with me to see me like that. If they ever noticed they never said anything, which honestly makes me feel a little worse, because that means they suffered in silence.

Being realistic, how much could anyone truly gain from my presence? If as soon as the family is together I’m slamming down beers and dipping into my stash in my car, what kind of quality time can anyone spend with me? How many times did I waste a holiday hoping no one would catch me in the driveway, or calling my dealer and rushing away to go get high?

Selfishly I took advantage of the time I could have spent loving the people in my life and being grateful for an entire day with them, but instead I forced myself to eat so I could drink, and then begged relatives for money under the table to go get loaded, and all the while my poor parents wondering why I can’t sit through one evening with them.

Being Sober Helped Me Get My Family Back

Sobriety has given me a lot of gifts. So many gifts I cannot imagine how to depict the depths at which treatment and the program of recovery has changed my life. Even from states away, I was able to have more quality conversations in sobriety with my family than I did the last few years sitting two feet from their faces.

My relationships through this journey have changed drastically, in ways I never suspected. My parents and I communicated very little in my active addiction, unless I needed something or somewhere to crash between runs, and the holidays were a time they prayed they could hold my attention as long as possible before I ran away again, I was really good at that.

But when I got honest, everything changed. When I looked my mother in the eye and told her I did not know how to stop drinking and using drugs, a barrier between us started to crack, and through working a program and consistently staying honest with bother her and my father, those walls blocking the love out have all but evaporated. From miles away my family holds my heart in loving arms in a way I was numb to for as long as I refuse to admit my addiction.

Sobriety Gave Me New Family

The rooms of the fellowship I chose as a program of recovery have provided me with a lot of wisdom, guidance, and especially brotherhood in the past dozen months. Besides the relationships I was blessed enough to restore with my family, I was given another gift that truly is beyond my wildest dreams in many ways. I was graced with a new family in the recovery community.

I have brothers I got sober with, grew and changed with, and like any good dysfunctional family I feuded and fell down with once in a while. These were people who sat in the same seat as me, had been there before and gotten better, or who looked to me to show them what amazing things that family had for them if they wanted it. They have cried with me, and laughed with me from the gut until our chests hurt, and all of it was a gift of sobriety I never expected, and now don’t see how I ever would have survived without.

These men and women inspired me with their life stories, and they taught me with their mistakes. Best of all they met me at my lowest lows, and if first impressions are everything I must have seemed like a whole lot of nothing. I know I sure felt like it. These men and women took me in and loved me anyway, when I thought of myself as undeserving. I have been loved with great compassion ever since, and that is definitely something to be thankful for.

The Gift

The gifts came in a lot of ways. The freedom from my forlorn and relentless obsession to drink and get high, the connection to a family I had hurt, and an incredible new family of sober men and women to experience life with through new eyes facing new challenges.

With all this the connection to a spiritual way of life was also one of the most paramount gifts, and that gift is actually what I believe forged the others for me. It is that gift that compels me to share that serenity and that hope with those who suffer as I did, who are afraid as I was, and who are dying like I was.

It is that gift, and the love I feel for every moment I was blessed with this past year, that is what makes me grateful for those I shared it with, and how they have taught me what it truly means to be grateful. Without sobriety, without recovery, I would probably still not know what it means to be happy and sober for the holidays.

Until next year, thank you.

If someone is holding themselves back from getting help out of fear of missing out on the holidays, I understand. But honestly I might not have made it through the holidays has I kept living the way I did, and coming to treatment for the holidays was the greatest gift I was able to receive, and able to give my family. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.

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