“We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”
~from The Promises in The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
“The person who is to succeed will never let his mind dwell on past mistakes. He will forgive the past in his life and in the lives of other people. If he makes a mistake he will at once forgive it.”
Unexpected Christmas Gifts from Past and Present Ghosts
Toward the end of my run out there, a raucous Christmas party took place annually, full of loud and lively people I barely knew. Although there was food by the ton, mostly there was booze. Booze was the theme, the centerpiece, and the focus – a chance to toast and get toasted. In my Christmas past, it felt like big fun.
Once I got sober, I didn’t attend for a few years.
Last time the invitation rolled around, I had no excuse not to go. I felt an echo of an obligation in a people-pleasing way to show up, and to show up as the new me. What I didn’t know was I was about to embark on a chance to observe myself like Scrooge did in “A Christmas Carol.” I got a glimpse into my past and saw the truth.
Armed with a bottle of Pellegrino and a dish for the potluck, my self-confidence and resolve began to wane the closer I got. I already sensed that I no longer really belonged or fit in. I wondered if I should turn back and head home but I kept going. I could hear the party from blocks away, and arrived to find the house and the guests exuberantly lit up.
Almost immediately a woman bounded over to me, arms outstretched, shrieking my name. She screeched her amazement at how long it had been, and her astonishment that we both knew our hostess. I frantically tried to recall if and how I knew this woman. I had no idea who she was even though she stated her name in response to my blank stare. She pointed at her husband and vague bells began to ring in my distant, hazy, and boozy memory.
We concurred that it indeed seemed like a lifetime or two ago, my mind racing to fill in the blanks. It was a challenge. I realized the time line of our brief history was right about when my drinking beginning to spiral out of control. The socializing I did with that couple and our mutual “friends” was for me focused on the party, the excessive indulging, and the “fun.” Even though it was cloaked in dinner parties, game nights or other funsy gatherings, for me it was about drinking lots and lots to try to fill the hole, diving off into the deep end.
At last, they separated from me to refill their glasses. I felt relieved and sensed they did too. I wandered around invisibly for a few minutes amidst the sea of unfamiliar faces. It was so loud. I glanced around the festive room, good-naturedly smiling at anyone whose gaze intersected with mine, but held eye contact with no one. I casually made my way to the front door and with one final glance and zero fanfare, I slipped out and made a bee line to the sanctity my car and headed home sweet home.
Since that night a few years ago, I haven’t received an invitation. But my intended and unintended mission for that evening was accomplished; that and so much more. I reinforced, reaffirmed, and remembered deeply that my current lifestyle of sobriety and the serenity that goes with it is who I am and what I want.
I really will go to any lengths to get it. Even on a brief visit to my past which I sense the exact and perfect chain of events that has brought me to this very moment.
This year I attended a party hosted by 2 AA friends, attended by a bunch of same. There was loud laughter, music, fun, food, and plenty to drink of a non-alcoholic nature. It is where I belong, what I look forward to, and where I frolic with my ghosts of Christmas present and future.
Have you ever put yourself in a situation where your sobriety set you apart?
Did you ever attend something out of some sense of obligation and regretted it?
Did you ever have something from your past show up that gave you an unexpected opportunity to see your great progress?
In gratitude, harmony and support,