5 months, 10 days / the best Christmas ever

My, it’s been a wonderful day! I’m full of festive cheer, and I’m close to tears now. Tears of happiness and joy. To say that I am grateful today doesn’t begin to cover this feeling inside me. Today I’ve done something I thought I would never do on Christmas Day: I’ve seen friends and made it to the end without any alcohol, all thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous. Though I could have spent the day at home with my mother, as I normally do, I wanted to go to a meeting today, because it is meetings that have saved me in sobriety.

Early this morning I had no expectations about what a Christmas Day meeting would be like. I’d been told that it would be fun and friendly, but not too busy, and therefore probably not like normal AA meetings. This afternoon I met up with a very good friend in the fellowship, C, who drove me to one of the few all day meetings taking place in West London. It was pouring with rain, there was no public transport, therefore C’s car was a lifesaver to me today.

We got to the meeting in relative comfort then, and were greeted by quite a crowd, none of whom I recognised but felt welcome amongst nonetheless. We sat down and for the next couple of hours simply listened to a lot of stories about alcoholism. This is not unusual for an AA meeting! However, there was more of a heartfelt and loving edge to all the sharing today than there usually is. People seemed hopeful, and grateful, and very reflective. Being able to reflect on life with honesty is not a gift that comes to everyone; the miracle of AA is that it brings this gift to alcoholics who are seemingly hopeless.

One sharer’s message was that it is never too early to start having fun in recovery. Sobriety should be fun, he said. I may do well to listen to him. Going out to have fun in sobriety is scary, because there is always the possibility of mistakes. I should know. But those mistakes don’t last forever. There’s always tomorrow; in sobriety we always have a shot at happiness. In drinking, we don’t stand a chance.

After an hour or so a woman who was clearly drunk walked into the meeting clutching a bottle of wine to her chest. She sat a few seats away from me and put the wine on the seat next to her, on proud display. For ten minutes she laughed hysterically and spoke gibberish. It was sad and scary to watch. I’ve seen drunk people in meetings before; it doesn’t surprise me that it happened today. I guess it scares us to see that, because that is what we used to be like. Luckily she left the meeting before being forced to leave. I have no idea where she went or what she did with that bottle of wine. I’m just glad I’m not drinking it tonight. I would not swap my sobriety for anything right now.

At 6pm I left the meeting as I was getting hungry and had Christmas dinner to look forward to at home. I’d spoken to a friend outside the fellowship who would be passing through West London this evening on his way home from a relative’s: he agreed to meet me outside the meeting and take me home in his car. So once more I was saved a long walk in the cold rain. To have friends who are willing to drive me across London on Christmas Day is just wonderful. Amazing, isn’t it? This is the kind of Christmas I always dreamed of as a kid.

No, I never dreamt of spending Christmas at an AA meeting, but for years I dreamt of being able to see friends on this day, and AA has brought that to me. This time last year, I had friends, but knew no one who I could spend some time with in the lonely festive period, because they were all too busy with their families. Living with my mum, I’m never alone at home, but it’s been years since we had the kind of relationship where we can sit in the same room together for long periods.

So I always felt truly alone. When I was a kid, long before I knew of such things as fellowship and living a fulfilling life, I fantasized about having a group of friends who would be there for me on Christmas Day. In the last few years I’ve had friends who I saw quite a lot of, but they were never good enough friends to spend Christmas with. Today, for the first time, I’ve actually seen people; I’ve actually been wished a merry Christmas by more than one person. The best thing is that all those people who’ve sent me festive wishes today genuinely meant it. None of the friends who I saw today were fairweather friends, they were real.

Another great thing is that I’ve been able to come home and not dread stepping through the door. I may not speak to my mum very much, but we get along, and she’s cooked us a lovely meal tonight. Right now I’m listening to my favourite music on the computer. Later I will watch some fantastic TV. Not too long ago, there was no computer, nor was there much that I enjoyed on the TV because we only had one set in the house, which my mum had general control of.

Material things are unimportant, I know. I’m just mentioning them because tonight I’ve realised how great the things I have really are. I can be really miserable sometimes – when I have no reason to be. In the meeting earlier someone talked about their warm home, their TV, their nice food, their running water. Not everyone in the world has those basic things. What’s wrong with my life? Nothing. I have everything that I need right now. The AA programme didn’t bring all these things to me, because I had them already; it just made me grateful for my life, for the first time.

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