In the 42 years I have been on this planet, I have had all kinds of Christmases. I have had magical ones- lots of those, thanks to my mom, who REALLY pulled out all the stops every year to make it special for us kids. I have had terrible ones- I remember a year, when Aisley must have been about seven, when I had stayed up partying all night, and all of her presents were from the dollar store. Also, a guy I didn’t know was passed out on my living room floor, left there by his friend the night before when we couldn’t wake him up. We just stepped over him. That’s the kind of life I have lived. I have had angry Christmases, and lonely ones, Christmas days filled with too much driving, too much fighting, and too much wishing I was somewhere else.
But I have never, ever, had a Christmas day when I was so overcome with gratitude as I listened to the sound of my family- all the people I love most in the world- chattering away and laughing in the living room behind me, that I broke down in tears. Not just a pretty little drop or two as I brushed garlic butter onto bread, but full on, “Oh shit, Courtney, this is not the time for a breakdown” kinda tears. Sobs, you might even say. I don’t know how to describe it to you, the way I was feeling, except for that worn out word, grateful. So, so, so full of gratitude that it hurt a little bit.
Because that, that feeling that I had, that sent tears pouring out of my eyes, and my mother rushing to hug me- that, my friend, is what recovery is. All the meetings that I make and the stepwork that I do, all the self reflection and correction and digging deep and starting over, forgiving myself, forgiving others, all the TRYING. All of the never taking anything, no matter what- THAT is what I have been searching for, and striving for, and wanting in my life and heart all along. That feeling of peace. That feeling of love, and belonging, and contentment and family. I have been really working a 12 step program for two and half years straight, but I have been trying to be where I was yesterday my entire adult life. My whole life.
If you are reading this, and you are new in recovery, I want to encourage you to stay the course. Don’t give up. There were times in the beginning when I was more miserable than I had been when I was using. I had zero coping skills, nothing left to take the edge off, and my brain was fucked up, even if I couldn’t come to terms with that at the time. My temper was as short fused as ever, and goddammit, I got clean so that I could stop being so hateful, but it didn’t seem to be working. If this sounds familiar, just wait. Just find whatever small improvements you do see, and hold onto them. Know that it will change.
When I had about a year clean, I got really mad at my mom, for a good long while. She didn’t do anything wrong, and I didn’t understand it- I hated it, actually. I was afraid that I was going to stay mad forever, and it scared me. But I had faith that I was working through old shit, feeling feelings that I should have felt a long time ago, and I held on. I kept pushing forward, inch by inch. One day, I looked for the anger that I had almost gotten used to lugging around with me, and I found that it had faded. Day after day, it lessened, leaving me surprised by what took its place- love, warmth, affection, acceptance. Yesterday, I can tell you, I did not have one single weird feeling where my mom is concerned. I never felt judged or criticized, picked on or even remotely insulted. The reason I am telling you this is because relationships change in recovery. You will change, and they will change.
Every single person in my house yesterday has been hurt by me in my addiction. Every. Single. One. I just now realized that. Wow. How blessed am I, that I get to make a living amends to these people? That they have forgiven me? That they still love me, that they are so proud of me? I literally would not have ANY of it if I wasn’t clean. I wouldn’t have it, and I wouldn’t even know that I wanted it. I would still be trying to fill that hole in my spirit with all the wrong things, wondering why everything hurt so much.
Listen, I want everyone to be able to feel the way I felt yesterday. If you have reached the end of your rope, and you need some help figuring out what to do next, shoot me an email. I will try to help you figure out a solution. Clduncan1@outlook.com, or just message me here. And again, if you are new in recovery, I promise you- the pain will be worth the gain. It will be worth every second.