The holidays use to be a very bad time of year. More specifically, it was a time of year designed to make me feel even worse about myself and my “pathetic” life. Everyone was suppose to be jolly and spending time with their huge extended family, opening up hundreds of dollars in gifts and chuckling over the green bean casserole. It was a time of year where men gave women expensive diamonds while walking hand and hand on a snowy sidewalk. A time of feeling together and at peace with the world around you. I didn’t have anyone to give me diamonds or kiss the snowflakes off my nose. I also didn’t have huge family get togethers, or hundreds of dollars to buy everyone the newest gadget. Truth be told, I had never even eaten a green bean casserole. Woe was me.
I sat at my parents yearly get together feeling sorry for myself and all that I lacked. I resented my brother and his “perfect” life. He had a beautiful wife, a great job, and later added a beautiful daughter to the mix. I just knew my parents were comparing the two of us, wondering what they had done wrong with me. I sulked over my lack of funds to buy really nice presents. I had a nasty disposition that was partly due to my 24 hour drinking habit, and partly due to the huge chip on my shoulder. Everything revolved around me. People were always thinking about Jennifer and her problems. Even the fake cheer of people at church got to me. Nobody was that happy. All these people singing about the Savior birth, some crying, it was so staged. If God was as great as everyone said, where was He for me? As far as I could tell, God was doing nothing for me or my life. I couldn’t wait for it all to be over with so I could go home, get smashed and pass out to forget about life.
Later on in my addiction, I just chose to forgo the whole holiday get together. I would just get drunk and not deal with it. It was better that way, and at least I wasn’t there drunk to ruin their festivities. I never thought about the fact I had already wrecked them by getting drunk and not showing up. My addiction made me one of, if not the most selfish person I have ever known. I didn’t think about how my mom must of felt, having prepared a nice meal and decorated the house, hoping maybe this year it would be different and her daughter would show up. It must of caused her such pain to note my empty chair at the dinner table. I didn’t think of my dad and how his heart must of been broken every time I didn’t show, as he thought about his “little girl,” the one he must of remembered tearing into presents with her brother and giggling gleefully at what was inside. What had happened to his only daughter? Or how my brother must of felt, not only had he lost his only sibling, he had to watch it tear down our parents. I imagine he struggled with feelings of disbelief, anger, and helplessness.
When my niece came along, I missed out on watching her “discover” all the things that went along with this time of year. There is nothing quite like a child at Christmas. She is the most beautiful blessing our family has received so far, and I wasn’t there to experience the joy she brought. She was too young to know of my absence. The worst part is, I thought I was doing her a favor by being absent.
This story is not unique to me, but is repeated over and over again around the tables of A.A and Celebrate Recovery groups. Addiction doesn’t just consume the addict, it consumes the family. Addiction has three goals: Destroy, steal, and kill. I was so consumed by drinking, that I didn’t care about anything other then keeping vodka in my system. It didn’t matter who I hurt along the way, because it was all about me. I got a luxury my family did not. I got to be drunk and forget. They were stuck with the memories. I needed something to change my heart, because it was becoming a heart of stone.
“You use to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” (Colossians 3:7)
Today, I can say Jesus Christ has freed me from the chains of alcoholism and refreshed my life. And what a life it is. After spending Thanksgiving with my family, and attending numerous other holiday events with them, I got to attend a gathering at my cousin’s house that included family I had not seen in a long time. There was laughter, there was love, I BROUGHT the green bean casserole! I even have a fiance who would kiss snowflakes off my nose if I asked him too.
The best part of the day, and perhaps my life in sobriety so far, was when my two year old neice took my hand and said “I want to go see the kitty!” She preceeded to lead me into what she called “The kitty room,”and for the first time, we hung out. Just me and her. This previously absent Aunt, who had missed too much of this little girl’s life, was given a precious gift. I got to hold her, tickle her, and hear her beautiful giggle over and over again. We looked out the window and saw bunny tracks in the snow, and she played funny games with me, goofing around and being silly. I was present and sober, and because of it, I got to be her Auntie Jenn. It was the best Christmas present I have ever recieved.
Tommarow I will be going to my parent’s house for Christmas. I don’t spend my money on vodka anymore, so I have bought and wrapped gifts. My mom has decorated and is preparing a feast. She won’t have to worry about my chair being empty this year. Dad will get to open up presents his “little girl” bought especially for him. My brother and his family won’t have to see the pain in my parent’s eyes, or feel that sick feeling of disappointment that I use to cause. Tommarow I get to make memories with my niece. She will remember I was there. The false resentments, the lies Satan fed me to keep me from my family, are all gone. I can’t erase the past, but I can create a new future. Jesus is working His way through the hearts of my family, making forgiveness and restoration possible.
When it is over, I will go to the candle light service at my church and celebrate my Savior’s birth. The same place where I once leered at the church-goers and couldn’t wait to get home to drink. Where I once wondered why if God was so great, why wasn’t He moving mountains to make my life better? I now realize He was always there, He was just waiting for me to notice. A verse my pastor wrote down for me early into sobriety has always stuck with me, and I believe is being proven true in my life today. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says: “My grace is suffient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Tommarow is gonna be a great day. Thank you Jesus, I give you all the glory.