Week 11: Merry & Bright

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Classic Christmas songs are my favorite – not the hymns from midnight mass or 1990s pop tunes, although I like those too – but the ballads from Perry Como, Nat King Cole and Judy Garland. The songs written long ago, but not too long ago. They remind me that Christmas is a special time with magic and jolly, yet each year, no matter the turmoil or glory or static, it arrives on the 25th of December.

Christmas comes when the new little baby sleeps in her crib, the loved one has returned from far away, the table is full and mighty. It also comes after the diagnosis, the burial, the bank account has nearly emptied. They are Christmases we remember and those we can’t, the one’s we hope to recreate each year and the ones we’d like to never mention again. The magic lies in the hope of next Christmas and that whatever troubles our heart this year will have run its course and joy will take over.

I’ve spent Christmases far and way, regretful and optimistic, and yet I anticipate Christmas’ arrival each year with lust that something will be different. Maybe this is the year for the best Christmas, that I’m gifted complete reassurance of who I am and my place in the world.

Yet, something’s been a bit off this holiday season and I couldn’t fully immerse myself in the festive spirit. It could be that I am not at home (only my fourth Christmas away from my family) or that I am still adjusting to a new job or the general sadness that’s been hovering over the world this year.

It also could be the sobriety. As I mentioned before, the biggest test of my sobriety has been the holidays. For me personally, the hard part of the holidays, with the exception of New Year’s Eve, is essentially over. I won’t have great temptations to drink on Christmas Day and the festive celebrations have all been had. Essentially, I survived Christmas without alcohol.

Yet, it doesn’t feel like an accomplishment. I had anticipated feelings of reassurance or enlightenment would come in my first holiday season without alcohol, but I don’t feel any real resolution after several weeks of abating temptation. (In the airport Thursday evening, I walked into a small shop and nearly snatched the beer out of a man sitting at a table because it smelled so good. In my eyes, at that moment, the beer prevailed over tres leches cake and dark fudge.) Rather, I am more fearful that this journey will get harder with greater allurement as the year goes on and my willpower will have been used up avoiding holiday ales and cranberry-infused champaign.

I am proud of making it nearly two months sober and getting through a normally booze-induced season, but I wish I felt more hopeful or like I was hanging on to rope of faith that this really is the best thing for me. I don’t know what I am holding on to right now.

But, then I read these words, and I feel a bit foolish. Not drinking at Christmas definitely requires effort, but I have so much to be grateful for this holiday season. All of my basic necessities are met and I am surrounded by love and grace. So, I’ve been a bit blue this holiday season, but my list of gifts is long and that’s what I need to remember. There, that’s where I can find that Christmas magic that seems to be there year after year.

Merry Christmas, friends. Hope your holiday is a bright and joyful one.

The hardest part of being sober: I learned this week that announcing my sobriety isn’t always necessary or welcomed. Some people don’t want to hear that you’ve decided not to drink, for whatever reason, and you can see thoughts spinning behind their eyes as you try to justify to them, and yourself, why this is a good idea.

The best part of being sober: Going to a holiday party and walking away with a $3.00 tab.

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