Days 104-109: Christmas In New York

Well, what do you know? I survived Christmas.

And now, that I’m back in Portland, sitting on my couch preparing to write my holiday recap, my cat snuggled sweetly next to me, I can’t even fathom how I made such a big deal out of the whole thing.

Well, yes, I can. It was the journey into the unknown, the first time, the “Sober Christmas” maiden voyage, and I have to respect my month-long freak out. Even though it wasn’t nearly as brutal, triggering, stressful, or earth shattering as I expected, I’m not beating myself up for the exaggerated anticipatory behavior. Yes, I overreacted. But, in the long run, I learned a valuable lesson. Annnnnnd, my first sober Christmas is in the bag. Since I don’t really give a shit about New Years, never have, and most likely never will, I consider the holiday season as good as over. A-fuckin’-men.

As for New York, there isn’t too much to report. For the most part, I was a lazy lug. Enjoying the comforts of parental attention as I lounged in my childhood home. I baked up a storm in my mother’s gorgeous, renovated kitchen. I reconnected with my cousins, who are more like siblings. It was, dare I say it, relaxing.

And, all the while I was there, I felt my sobriety was pretty strong. There were a few moments where I needed to go out on my parents front stoop and chain smoke. Like, when searching for a kitchen gadget while baking, I came across the Jim Beam White Label bottle that I’d purchased, and guzzled most of, last year. And, while I wasn’t tempted to drink it, it brought back memories that took me out of my elf-like state of baking cheer, and into the dark depths. Memories unearthed that hardly inspired Christmas cheer. But, also, the realization that I’ve come so, so far. That I’m practically a new person. That my life has this sturdy foundation. And, that was nice. To see that bottle, and, instead of thinking ‘RELIEF!’, I thought about the positive changes I’ve made, and, how my life has truly changed and improved.

I went to a Brooklyn AA meeting. Which, was fun. The format is completely different from Portland meetings, the accents are thick and it sounded like my youth. But, I was welcomed. The fellowship, thousands of miles from my home, still held strong. And, it made me so grateful for the program. Even though I didn’t need a meeting, it was so comforting and reassuring to have one. To have a group that I fit into, even if my Brooklyn accent has long since faded away. I returned to New York, to find I belong. Not just with my family, but, in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

There were, as I expected, a few moments of panic and discomfort at my uncle’s home in New Jersey on Christmas day. Cousins who were clearly avoiding me, not knowing how to behave around me or what to say to me as they threw back their bottles of beer. The painfully awkward moment where we Facetimed my grandparents and my grandmother preceded to start an embarrassing rant about how proud she was of my recovery, as my whole family stood around me looking and listening, as if I were cured of leprosy. There was the moment at the end of dinner where the desserts and coffee hit the table, accompanied by, as any proper Irish-American family event does, a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. And, fuck, if I didn’t want some. But, I did what any good, recovering alchie would do, I just ate a shit-ton of cookies and a big piece of cheesecake.

Then, on the way back to Portland, the airport struck again. God, I gotta say, the airport was the worst, most trying part of the trip. The boredom. The anticipation. The delayed flight. The happy people sitting at the bar, drinking, drinking, drinking….

But, when all’s said and done, good and bad, easy and hard moments alike, I made it. And, it’s just another one of those milestones in sobriety that you have to come out on the other side of to see how it is, really. There isn’t a way to fast forward through these events in which drinking used to play a big part for us former drinkers.

Just like everything that was important to me when I drank, this Christmas was something that I had to create a new, sober memory around. And, now, I’ve got one in the bank. One of many to come, I hope. And, maybe next year, I’ll be in some totally new, awesome state of being. It’ll be different. But, it’ll be better. I know that much.

Facing the the fear, it’s so hard, but, it’s making me better, all the time.

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