Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I was not going to write this article but here it is anyway...

I sobered up on 12/3.  It's a really bad plan to sober up just before the holiday.  So bad that, for better than a decade, I'd each year made a plan to really look at my drinking - maybe taper back some - after New Year's.  What happened for me in 1983 that was different from all those other years can only be explained by the grace of God.  Really.

But, what remains: the holidays are a really hard time for me to be sober all the time.  Some days still.

I've always probably been about the most selfish person I know.  From my earliest memory until today.  As much as it gave me pleasure to give my wife and kids nice things for Christmas, I always wanted people to give me wonderful things.  I want stuff.  A lot of stuff.  All of it.

I have more "stuff" than most people I know.  Most of it sits unused, year after year, so that it's become a burden.  In a very real and a very direct sense, the case can be easily made that my stuff owns me more today than I own it.

Yet, I'm embarrassed on each Christmas morning that I have to stifle my own pouting and sour attitude about not getting all the stuff I want - even while I watch our kids masterfully teach our Grandkids (now ranging 2-16 years old) all about sharing and appreciating what they've been given.  I gotta tell you, it's humiliating when the Grandpa pouts and sulks more than the 4 or 5 year-old.  And, that happens almost every year.  I wish I'd learned those lessons as a kid.  I wish I could learn those lessons now.

I'm also selfish in giving.  I always wanted my presents to be the biggest and the most appreciated.  I wanted all the holiday events to be at my house.  I wanted to be known as the source of all good things.

As our financially situation has deteriorated through the past 8 years, this has been relieved some out of necessity but it's still possible to detect some resentment from others at the lack of the grand, dramatic gestures I've been able to put out in the past.   I hate how it feels to not fight someone for the check at dinner or to insist we provide all entertainment at our house.  I guess we all get to grow...

The best the holidays have been for me in sobriety is that I've occasionally fought back to a position of detached neutrality where I can watch people do whatever they're going to do and appreciate the "good" in all of it and understand and forgive the "bad."

We've had holidays where the "goose hung high" - I got everything I wanted (yeah, really!) and my efforts were truly appreciated.  That seems to be as perilous a place  for me (perhaps more) as the times when I only got presents I really didn't want and I felt I should have been absent, thus causing the joy meter to rise 100 degrees in the room.

So I might see you this holiday at a party.  Even if we don't know each other, you will recognize me as the one who is looking for chairs to put away, dishes to be cleared or, best still, a newcomer to ask how he's planning to get through his first holiday season.  While we're talking, on a good day, when you ask me about me and my life, I will get you to tell me more details about yours.  On a really good day, you will be convinced that I really care about every little detail of your life and your problems.

And then, before we know it, the holidays will be past.


P.S. - Mary Christine's birthday is today - happy day to her!!!


Doc in Al-Anon said...

Thanks again, nice share on gifts and giving.
I still remember the year I was given size 7 slippers by both Dad and brother. Double burn - they didn't fit my size 9 feet, and I got two pairs of them! Boy did I feel misunderstood and under-considered. And boy did I nurse that feeling.

Syd said...

I have always been one who would rather give than receive. I'm learning to receive graciously now. I can remember as a kid feeling sad after the buildup of Christmas because I wanted the feeling to go on and on--the anticipation and the excitement of cards, Santa, etc.
I can see that selfishness has many faces and takes many forms now.

Mary Christine said...

Thank you for the birthday wish... it is appreciated. And, having seen you at events, I can attest to the fact that you can be seen stacking chairs and caring about others - apparently including me - and I appreciate that!

Scott W said...

We have to keep looking at ourselves, not from a selfish standpoint, but one of vigilance. As someone said, an unexamined life is not worth living.