I’M A GRATEFUL RECOVERED ALCOHOLIC NAMED TAMI
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
I got to reread over some of my older blogs that I had written this time last year. I can’t believe it has been my second Thanksgiving season here at Drunkless.com. I am coming up on my two-year anniversary in January and boy has time flew. As I was looking back at some of the blogs I have written I was amazed at how many blessings in recovery I have received just in this short time I have been able to document them. That led me to the think about all the blessings I have received since this time last year. It is not enough to say that there are more than I could write about – and that’s a good thing. It’s a great thing. Today I can honestly say, “I’m a grateful recovered alcoholic named Tami”. But what about those who do not feel so blessed?
Tis the season to have an attitude for gratitude. However, for a lot of us, this time of year can start to bring on anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness, and for some even suicidal thoughts. Even for those of us who have seen the miracles in sobriety, this time of year can still incite those feelings that holidays often bring up.
As part of the recovery community’s ritual, this time of year around the world, the members of Alcoholic’s Anonymous gather in numbers (because there is strength in them) and we hold around the clock meetings called Alcothons. This is when rooms around the world keep their doors open 24 hours a day for anyone who might be experiencing some of those unpleasant things I described earlier.
I would like to remind you that sobriety does get easier. But, I’d be lying if I disregarded the fact that certain times of the year will never be okay for some of us. During our active disease we were so selfish and wrapped in our own self-centered feelings of self-loathing that we often times were the center of others’ pain during the holidays. Sometimes we would disappear, only to leave our loved ones scared and praying for us, one more seat empty again at the table. Others would be brave enough to try the “normal” act, fully believing we could manage, only to burn the house down with the party in it by our actions. We left devastation everywhere we went. Some of us had done it so many times, or so severely, that our own loved ones disowned us, locked their doors when we came, changed their phone numbers, or even went as far as moving and not leaving forwarding addresses. Some of us have even lost our children for good and feel like there is no reason to ever celebrate again. Holidays sucked then and can still suck now for a lot of us.
For some of us, some of those bridges were never able to be repaired – at least not yet. So, meeting rooms will fill up more dramatically than any other time of the year when the season starts to come barreling down on us. Some of us will retreat, isolate (which is deadly for an alcoholic) and hold the fort until all the lights come down once again. If we get lucky, we will survive another bought with the happy holiday blues and stay sober. Others will not get so lucky. Some will hunker down with the rest of us standing guard against our disease working our programs of recovery fervently, as if our lives depended on it. The rest will be blessed enough to participate in the festivities with rekindled relationships and loved ones.
I am reminded of a person, we will call her Jane, that I was working with in recovery early on. She had lost her children due to her disease and believed that she would never see them again. The holidays were a fight for her. Not only did she not have her children, but her mother had passed away years ago and she truly felt the loss of her loved ones during the holidays. The struggle was real as I watched her painfully cry, pull away, vanish altogether, and fight to find a reason to stay alive just one more day, let alone stay sober. I recall one holiday that she disappeared only to tell me much later that the night of the holiday she sat alone on a curb watching fireworks above her crying, missing her loved ones. I felt heartbroken that she had felt such loneliness and despair. I still do recalling it.
I spent many years involved with that lovely woman, trying to ease her into my family (who I was blessed to still have) and every chance I got I nearly forced her to participate. Some years I would hurt for her when she couldn’t. Years would pass, and I would continue to invite her and slowly but surely she showed up for the holidays. Now, there isn’t a holiday that doesn’t go by that she isn’t baking pies with us so we can give them to the homeless or Christmas caroling with the family on snowy nights. She even has her own Christmas ornament for the tree. Still I know that a huge part of her misses her children and mother. She has just learned how to let herself be loved when she doesn’t feel loveable. She has learned to live life for herself slowly and continues to work on her recovery in the meantime.
As a result, this year she still will not have her children at the table for the holidays. But, nothing short of a miracle, today she gets to talk to them and write them and has hope today that one day soon they will be with us around the tree drinking eggnog. That is something she didn’t have then and never thought she would.
This year I will circle my camp and begin the decoration of the annual family holiday parade float. My best friend will get in on the action. She will wave for the children in hopes they will see her on that float and smile knowing she is alive today with a chance now. That’s right. Today she has tangible hope – something she never had before. It has been a long road for my friend, and it still is. But today there is light at the end of it.
So, as I look back over this year I have numerous blessings I could inundate you with. But the one that sticks out the most today for me is that I am a grateful recovered alcoholic named Tami. I have been able to be a part of others’ recoveries and watch as the light came back on in their eyes. I have witnessed lives be transformed and hearts be repaired. I have seen hope be found and others learn how to live again in a new world they know nothing about.
My home is often times the center of late night chats with friends, games of charades, late night cooking escapades, dance parties, and much more. In my home you will find a wealth of love, a mismatched family pieced together in recovery, and plenty of laughter. My family continues to grow as well as my heart does. I get to share today with others what was so freely given to me.
I don’t know why I didn’t have to experience some of the stories I hear - but I have my own. What I do know is that I have a huge heart with lots of love to give, a family who loves to adopt more into it, and an ever-growing need to fill my home with as many memories as possible.
You will find me at Alcothons and in meetings this time of year, not because my butt is falling off, but because that is where I can find the next adoptee into our family of recovery. Without Alcoholic’s Anonymous I wouldn’t have the life I have today or my ever-growing family. I hope I never forget that.
Many of you will be feeling the sting of the holiday season as you read this. My heart is with you. I know that this is not easy. I know that all feels lost. But, if you hold on for one more day, there will come a day that you can weather through these holidays and make a difference in another’s life. Because one day you will know the true meaning of the holiday season - giving to others. My hope for each of you struggling right now is that you find your recovery family, hold onto them, and let them love you until you are able to love yourself. We are all rooting for you. We are here – your recovery family.
From your family here at Drunkless we wish you all light and love this time of year. We will be praying for you in our separate ways. You are never far from our thoughts.
~ A Grateful Recovered Alcoholic Named Tami ~
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