Monday, December 29, 2008


Expected gifts underneath the decorated tree were waiting to be opened. My father was dragging out the moment, trying to heighten the suspense of the Christmas eve. Once more, he was telling us why we opened our gifts on the night before, tediously explaining that Christmas day was too holy to waste on the opening of presents, that God would be more pleased if we were to open them on the night before that special day. Eventually, he would became annoyed with my sister and I since we were too impatient, wanting to get on with the receiving of gifts.

When the unwrapping was allowed to start, I became a thespian, having to feign wonder and surprise as I was given my gifts. The same gifts I had already discovered in the weeks before Christmas, mining them in my parents bedroom in my quest to fight that sadness that could not be shared. The fact was that each time, standing in my parents room, discovering what my gift was to be, I was be filled with disappointed and guilt. The disappointment in learning that the gift would not fill me with happiness and joy. The guilt in knowing that I was doing something strangely immoral, taking away from the whole meaning of exchanging gifts.

One year, I discovered my gift, a gift I had asked for but upon seeing it, really didn't want it. A couple of days later, in casual conversation with my mother I told her that I didn't want that item as a gift anymore, I wanted something else. She looked really tired after I spoke those words but didn't say anything. I found the unwanted toy when I unwrapped my present that Christmas, feeling more depressed and ugly as I did so.

Having to take money I had earned delivering papers to by gifts was never a good experience. What ever gift I would purchase for my parents seemed inadequet, incapable of making them happy. There was, in my imagination, a perfect gift, a gift that would lift the spirits of the reciever, filling their hearts with joy and gratitude. A gift that would fulfil their lives. I wanted to be able to give the gift that I was never to recieve. High expectations during the high season would just lead to sadness, guilt, and anger.

In those days, I would numb myself by sneaking into my parents room, going through my fathers dresser drawers looking for his hidden porn magazines. I had noticed one on his bedside table when I had come into their room one morning and was instantly hooked. I knew what it was and I knew I wanted it. Always, I would be left feeling sad and guilty after the experience but it began a habit that would continue, on and off, for most of my life.

I still have a lot of these residual feeling around Christmas. Sadness, guilt, dissappointment and hopelessness had become prevalent feelings for this festive season. It has become so much better since I have entered into recovery. Ending each day clean and sober is, by far, the best gift I have recieved. The word "clean" seems wrapped up with no longer feeling guilty and shameful about my internet activities, about being able to open and honest with my spouse. Being connected with my family during the holidays, staying with them for the entire time without having to hide out in a bottle and in my den, is the best gift I can give to them. Being part of the family, not standing off to one side, makes all the recovery work worthwhile.

The meaning of Christmas is changing for me. I may never get to the point where I am looking forward to it but I am able to participate, to try to make is special for my partner who just loves this holiday, loves spending time with family. So cool.

One day at a time.

Photo Credit: Bill Barber



It's no wonder Christmas is difficult for so many people. I have pretty good memories of the Holiday from my childhood so I consider that a blessing.

But, I can still get down when I find myself exhausted by so much activity and wanting to please everyone so much. I try to just take deep breaths, calm down, and remember what the season is really all about.

I enjoyed Christmas this year, but I'll be glad when January 5th arrives and it's all completely over.

Fishstyx said...

Thanks for that description of Christmas. You just articulated for me my own experience with the wanting of things and the wanting of giving the perfect gift. I was sober for the fist time this xmas and my wife said it was the best ever. I told my family no gifts for me this year because I was getting the best gift ever the next day at meeting. My 1 year chip. The little medal was not the prize it was the touchstone moment as I took enventory of my changes in my heart. Whew that was a long year! I'll stop now or else I won't have anything to put in my blog:)

Shadow said...

oh yes. looking and looking for that perfect gift to fill that empty hole. and looking in all the wrong places. sheesh, i did that for long enough too. i too still feel the pressure of christmas, but it is getting lighter. beautiful post!

Chris said...


The meaning of Christmas is not the only thing changing for me. My life before recovery, both before using and during, still have left an impression on me (kind of like you'd expect if you fell asleep with your face in a waffle iron) but these days I'm interested in finding some new traditions that make sense to me, and in owning my own responsibility for finding happiness. (That means a $15 limit on toys for the kids - and everyone else gets a pineapple. If you don't like it, don't eat it. LOL)

Femin Susan said...

Absolutely fantastic post! Good job!
Great! Keep writing…….
Good week………
" A Happy New Year''

Lou said...

I love that part about not having to "disappear" or "go to the store" while the rest of the family celebrates. What freedom that must be..too bad it does not come free! The price is paid in daily work on self.