by Tony A.
When I was very young, the holiday season was a very special time for me. It was a magical time of the year — a time of love, joy, laughter, giving and fabulous food, and everyone was so very happy.
During my drinking days, though, the holidays became a time of despair, sadness and incredible heartache. But thanks to the fellowship and the 12 Steps of our wonderful program, the magic and meaning of the holidays have been brought back into my life with a vengeance.
The first couple of holidays during my early recovery were difficult but not impossible. I did not have the spirit of the holidays in my heart. However, I was willing to do what was necessary to make my life different and hopefully better than the way it was. Getting used to the new way of living took time, but it did happen. I really kept my gaze on the individuals who had that special twinkle in their eyes and had the community spirit.
I made it a point to stick very close to the fellowship and learned to do lots of meetings — especially the candlelight/gratitude meetings. When it’s particularly hard to want to go to meetings is often really the best time to go to meetings! There are lots of resources available to us to help facilitate a safe season for us and I urge you to get familiar with and use them.
Going to the gratitude and candlelight meetings was quite painful at first. I heard many members sharing about their gratitude for the fellowship and what the 12 Steps and the fellowship had done for them — sometimes to the point of tears. I did not understand, nor did I feel this way, but I really enjoyed the meals that followed these meetings! All that I knew was that I needed to be around people as much as I could and that staying alone was to be minimized as much as possible.
Originally it was the food that kept me coming back to the holiday meetings, as I had much fear of people in those days. Over time, though, the love from the members slowly found its way into my heart. Now I can honestly say it is the love that brings me back to these special meetings in 12-step recovery rooms – our most treasured gift, “the fellowship.” I now find myself starting weeks early, planning my itinerary of holiday meetings and getting very excited.
A really cool event during the holiday season here in our city is the annual Winter Season Open House on Christmas Day hosted by Toronto Intergroup and the many AA groups and members in the Toronto area. There is no reason to spend Christmas Day alone. Events like the WSOH are of particular interest to members who do not have family for whatever reason or are having a “Blue Christmas.” Please visit the Toronto Intergroup website for more information on these events, including the candlelight meetings held over the month of December.
There are also the wonderful New Year’s celebrations that happen in and around town too, don’t forget. I know of so many members who open their homes up for New Year’s events and all you need to do is keep an open ear and ask. Open to all is the traditional AA Spiritual New Year’s at Holy Rosary Church at St. Clair & Bathurst, which is always a good time and very well attended with potluck food. There are also a number of sober dances that are usually listed on the websites. I tend to find myself going to the smaller house parties rather than the big events these days. But the point is that there is always something to do for us, as we truly are not a glum lot!!
When I travel to visit with my family, or to other cities where I know there are going to be 12-step meetings, I bring a list of them with me so I know where I can turn when and if needed. This was particularly helpful in my early years of sobriety. Things have now settled down with my family relationships — I have learned to mind my own business when it comes to them and I find I don’t get as stirred up as I once did. However, I still bring a list of meetings with me just in case, and I never know when the need will arise.
I go to many parties and events related to this season but most are recovery related, with no drinking or drug use. I simply enjoy being around people in recovery much more these days. However, at family functions and other situations where there is drinking, I treat it just the same — that my sobriety comes first. If I am finding that I am getting overwhelmed by the situation, I have the right to leave if necessary.
Where there once was only despair, sadness and incredible heartache during this time of year has now been replaced with incredible joy, laughter, love and kindness. I continue to be amazed at how working the program changes us in the most exquisite and profound ways if we allow it to. This has been very reflected in my feelings towards the holiday season. I urge you to embrace this time of year in the fellowship and enjoy what it has to offer us. It has made a world of difference in my life and has brought the real meaning of the holidays back to me, similar to what I felt when I was a little boy.
A safe, happy, and most of all sober holiday season to you all!