• David Sales

Tis the Season

Reality time. It is here.

What has become my least favourite month has arrived and, as usual, I already feel the unease. I wish it wasn't this way, but it is and I will get through it. There will be no running away, no escaping, and no matter how trapped I may feel at the moment, onward I will trudge.

That's what I do now - I get through stuff. Sometimes with a surprising modicum of grace and other times I just bounce off the guardrails to emerge at the finish line feeling a little more banged up than when I started. Regardless, I keep both hands on the wheel and try my best to navigate the bumps along the way. In this long journey of recovery, sometimes scraping through is a worthy aim, trusting this minor victory will be enough.

I'm grateful that I have learned how to use the tools I now have and that I don't need to rely on the shallow comfort of substances to survive difficult emotional times. My willingness to roll with the punches during the holidays rooted in my hope that it will get better. Until then, I try to keep my expectations in check and attempt to be of good cheer when in the company of others. I understand that for many, this is a wonderful time of year and being a kind person, the least I can do is make sure I'm not dragging a black cloud with me.

Christmas and all that comes with it, is just something that happens around me and any efforts to will myself into the spirit seem futile. My circumstances in recent years have left me feeling like an outsider, a bystander, or a quiet observer. These personal truths have become a source of deep lonesomeness, and I now know that reaching the point of near death and hospitalization last year was not a coincidence. That crushing sense of being unwanted and unworthy of love grew exponentially during the months leading up to it. Making the misguided decision to take the exit ramp was, sadly, liberating. Knowing that I wouldn't ever have to feel that worthlessness again, the idea made sense. Fortunately, the actual execution of such a thing was much more difficult than I thought it would be and... here I am, taking another wobbly run through December.

This time I am more prepared. It would be a careless dereliction of duty to myself if I wasn't. Doubling or tripling down on my daily maintenance of personal guardrails is a must, and I gladly do it as an act of self-love and internal kindness. I owe that to myself for getting this far.

My difficulties in being present, to embrace the spirit, or in the least keep myself grounded, are born of an inexplicable inner turmoil that I have yet to calm. It has nothing to do with any religious aspect, my beliefs, or any confusion with faith. Mostly, it is the overall magnification of every unwanted flaw I see in myself, every sadness I still carry, and painful memories that remain unpacked. There is no purpose in sharing specifics, they matter not to anyone but me, and because of that, doing what I need to do to survive the holidays is strictly an inside job. No person, place, or thing can make it my demons go away. Any attempts, as appreciated as they may be, to drag me kicking and screaming into someone else's happiness will create resentment. I hope I won't face the added pressure of trying to make people understand why I feel the way I do, do the things I will probably have to do, and the small boundaries I will have set. I will, as I have done almost each day in my sobriety, keep my heart open and my commitment to love will be my biggest strength. Love for my family, love for my friends, love for my recovery community, and love for myself. I have worked hard to love myself and I'm getting better at it and I hope that this will make it a little easier.

That I find this time of year so difficult doesn't make me an awful person, nor does it make me unique. I am solidly connected with the recovery community, communicating regularly online with people all over the world and with a small group of people locally. There are countless numbers of good people who carry the dread of the holidays with them, making this a dangerous time of year. I think most of us know we are going to lose some people before this is over and we seek strength from each other. It is in the kindness we show and accept that we find the most comfort in and compassion for each other. Kindness, above all else, is the greatest gift we can give each other... any time of the year.

Being kind to people who struggle begins with the simple acceptance that some of us find the holidays extremely hard. Allowing us to choose how much we engage is often the greatest gift one can give. While kind offers of visits, dinners, or the invitations to family traditions are truly special gifts for the lonely, allowing someone to decline them is a far greater kindness. Being treated with this dignity and respect, fosters much needed empowerment and a feeling of being loved, being understood, and being accepted. Leaving the door open for us to walk through on our own eases the emotional burden of not wanting to hurt someone's feelings.

I am aware some of what I've written may come across as negative or like I am expecting Christmas to be a big old nasty shit burger, but that isn't my intention at all. I do not hate Christmas. I am just at a place of transition in my life and I have much work to do. I'm sure most of don't like it when we have to work through Christmas... wink, wink.

And if you really need to hear something positive from me, I will have something to celebrate and will do that in a healthy and positive way. On December 23rd, I will acknowledge an entire year of sobriety which is the best gift I could ever give myself. That is more than enough, I could even consider it a miracle. So I got that going for me.

Despite my expectations of the difficulties I may face this month or how I am feeling today, I am also keenly aware that everything I experience is different now. I am not the person I was before and therefor; I don't know what it will be like and who knows, I might write a blog in a few weeks about the magic of Christmas. It could happen.

It doesn't really matter either way. My heart will remain open, I will be kind, and... if it ends up being an emotional shit burger... well, pass the pepper.