Day 13 of HIKMT’s 25 Ways in 25 Days to celebrate Christmas.

Today’s Tip is sent in by Julie Bunch, a woman in long term recovery and President of Waltham Overcoming Addiction.

The holidays were the best time for a kid like me, the only child center stage. That all changed when what I like to call my addicted self took over. What was once a time for giving, laughs, friends and family became a time for half truths, trips to the bathroom, frantic phone calls, random people showing up, disappointment over light envolopes and nothing under the tree to sell! They had finaly caught on. I was reduced to care packages, single servings of beeforoni, essentials and something to carry it in and be on my way. Oh well, beeferoni was a fav…

Eventually, missing Christmas and other holidays altogether with the notion everyone was better off with out me was a special kind of hurt for all involved.  The holidays became a sad time and loneliest time. I was destitute and it seemed at these times, the only life force that I came in contact with was the desolate, the forsaken, and the unwanted. We all had the same hallow look, spoke the same words of despair and all with the same feeling of an impending doom. It was so apparent as to how far I had fallen that I would hold my breath, clench my teeth, fist balled  and I would race through these times shouting to all that would listen!

I didn’t feel a thing. I convinced myself that feelings were not an asset and I buried them in this lie, only to bang smack dab into the next holiday wall. There came a time when I no longer enjoyed my addicted self. I actually downright hated that person and all it represented: a bleak existence. If I don’t cut my losses now and climb out of this cavern that I created for myself I would no doubt cease to exist.  I learned later on in my recovery that this was my moment of clarity.

Not too bad… the 1st year I was wrapped up tight in detox, holding, a 28 day program and a nine month program, so I only really had to deal with holidays in small doses and could quickly run back to the safety of treatment  while still denying the impact it was having on my soul to be missing for the holidays.  I began to develop some coping skills around the holiday.  I traveled in packs in the 12 step arena at the time that had the most success rate than the older guys. AA and NA was still new in in my area so the most clean time was 10 years. At the time it seemed like a fog or a whirlwind of smoke filled church basements, sometimes two and three times a day. Recovery first! Plan your day around a meeting. The more meetings you get to the more recovery you will have under your belt. If you want what we have, do what we do!

The hardest: one a day at a time. I didn’t get that one right away but knew I couldn’t think in terms of doing this for rest of my life. That was too scary, so I was reduced to five minutes at a time. As far as asking for help this translated to stand in the middle shaking and looking petrified and ready to puke from the anxiety of it all and hope like hell that someone noticed.  Well, maybe they wouldn’t notice and that way I can say I tried and it didn’t work out and go back to what was normal… for me use! Oh yeah, reservations will rob me of my recovery . Don’t overthink it. Go back to five min at a time. This is how my brain worked 24/7, even when I slept.

There was a nice balance of newcomers and people with time to corral us for the holidays. There were alkathons and naranons where we would frequent in and out all night long leading up to the big day. We had sober clubs that gave us the feeling of clubbing without the alcohol and this was extremely uncomfortable in the beginning because I felt like I should be in the bathroom making deals, but after awhile I became comfortable with myself so I was able to to feel comfortable with others; all the while sharing how inadequate I felt. If you can understand that then don’t spend to much time on it. It’s just how the addict mind justifies its nonsense.

The first couple of years home we went through the motions but something was different. Oh yeah, the holiday cheer! So now instead of running out to do the dope,  I was running out to do meetings. After a couple of years of this phase, my mom suggested that we celebrate the holidays at my house and my response was no way! Your house is where Christmas is and that’s that! (Because, well, if you don’t know by now, we hate change;  no matter how uncomfortable it is) She said well let’s just try it, if you don’t like it we can go back to having it here.  I reluctantly agreed with the idea; stomping my feet the whole way. Little did I know, Christmas was saved by this act! Of course my house, my decorations, my tree, and lord have mercy, my cooking, and best of all: my sober friends and family!

I began to develop new customs and traditions which molded into new-heartfelt memories laughs and an abundance of love! Three family’s with no place to celebrate melded into one at Christmas and we have celebrated for over a decade almost two now. It’s a misfits kinda Christmast. Pieces of my traditions will go on long after I’m gone: banana pudding from scratch, which causes so many problems every year, but is truly a bonding experience. A frantic dash to get every thing just right Christmas eve and then a trip to light candles for those who are no longer with us. One of those candles will be for me one day I suppose. Then a jaunt to CVS, you know the 24-hour one, to buy last minute gifts and press all the buttons on the toys that are animated, only to return home early into the morning to get about three hours sleep and then up again to enjoy the big day!

I could go on and on what this entails, but the only way to describe it is as GRAND! You see, my door is always open to other misfits I gather throughout the year.  The whole thing is really overwhelming for 1st timers and at the end of it all when I collapse and I think to myself: kid you’ve come a long way from being kicked out of Christmas to being so Christmas!  With love, The Christmas misfit.

Daily Reflection:

I am thankful today for the people in my life who can make me laugh. It seems like such a silly thing… a simple thing… but it has the power to turn the course of my day.

When I am wallowing in self-pity… When I am allowing despair to get the better of me… To have a loved one stop me from my ruminations with an unexpected joke, that pulls me from my pain and releases my emotions, is a blessing.

Today, I am thankful for all of the people in my life who have been blessed with the gift of humor. They are able to improve a sullen mood… ​
Lighten a heavy heart… and bring a smile to my face when the last thing I want to do is smile… even though I know that it truly is the best thing for my spirit.

“Dear God, thank you for joy and laughter. Thank you for the humor you bring into my day and for the people who make me smile.”

Shortcut to the Spirit of the Season: 

Thanking God for the Momories. As we immerse ourselves in the holiday season and recall the days of old, we say, “Thanks for the memories” in both our words and our actions. You don’t have to travel far to bring hope to others, to make a difference. You just have to make an effort. Like Bob Hope, you bring joy to the season when you reach out to others and let them know they are appreciated and loved.

Dig out some old home movies this year and bring back the magic of past holidays and be ready to highlight this years celebration to grow your bank of memories.


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