Thanks to this self-imposed challenge, I’ve experienced a rather mellow holiday season. I didn’t go overboard with spending, I didn’t even purchase any knick-knacks at the German Christmas Markets, I didn’t roast a turkey, hell- I didn’t even wrap any presents! And yet, somehow I managed to be more present and joyous this Christmas.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve clung to the vestiges of Christmas’ past: all of the decorations must go out and to their proper places, a Christmas Tree must be purchased and adorned within the first week of December, frequenting the overcrowded malls is a requirement, gift wrapping is a thoughtful and creative accompaniment to each special gift, and all musical selections must pay tribute to the holidays. Even writing this, I can feel myself becoming exhausted. As much as I love this season, it is a lot of work, and each year I am finding that I am able to let go of a bit more of my attachment to the auxiliary components of Christmas. This has nothing to do with my love for the holidays nor does it imply that I’m lazy or have a diminishing festive spirit. Rather, it means that I am responsibly prioritizing my needs and desires, beginning with an appreciation and respect for self.
This Christmas is a perfect demonstration of self love. In fact, so is the journey of recovery. When I entered into AA, saying yes to sobriety was my first experiment with self love. As I continued on, choosing to stay sober was a testimony of that love, but so were a variety of other choices I made from my career path to my hair color to my relationships. Through trial and error, I learned valuable life lessons such as avoiding energy drinks and piercings, paying for my health insurance before purchasing concert tickets, refilling my psych meds prior to running out, showing up for my commitments instead of pawning them off onto someone else, making my own coffee instead of investing my small fortune in Starbucks, removing makeup before bed, and not using my sick days for sleeping in. As ridiculous as this may seem, these judgments were not easy ones to make when I was newly sober. And really, how different are they from ensuring you have adequate sleep, flossing regularly, hitting the gym, and routinely praying and meditating? Whether you are learning to show up for work or are beginning to understand the benefit of investing in a much-needed vacation, the decision is about taking care of self.
For me, there is another element to this whole self care thing, and that is looking good. I typically appear (and feel) the best when I’m not running around struggling to please everyone or trying to be perfect, but sometimes I can be too deluded to notice. (It’s kind of like when you think you look good when you’re strung out.) So, there I am, ignoring that flashing “empty” sign because I just have to get there or do that. I know that I need to go to bed or take a lunch or drink more water, but I go until I crash because I want to look good. It wasn’t until several years into my sobriety that I cleaned out my iPod; for years, I carried around music I didn’t like because I thought you’d like it. It wasn’t until my 6th year working for a company that I opted to purchase a gift card in lieu of a more thoughtful gift for the work Christmas party. It wasn’t until my fifth year of sobriety that I reached my limit and said “No” to more sponsees. And this Christmas, I really practiced letting go of looking good when my Christmas tree stood barren for two weeks, when I let the stores wrap my gifts or sent unwrapped gifts by mail, and when I brought store- bought cookies instead of homemade cookies to my work Christmas party.
In some ways, this Christmas was not as festive as others. But what it lacked in bows and ribbons, it made up for in harmonious gratification.