I have been wondering about who started this business about giving Christmas presents and decided it was those three wise men who traveled to Bethlehem. You know, the ones bearing gifts. Apparently, Sears, JC Penney’s and the Pottery Barn found out about it, printed up their catalogs and the rest is history.
There are two basic kinds of people who receive Christmas presents. Kids, and those of us who are no longer kids. It is a much better deal when you are a kid. Everybody asks you what you want for Christmas. I even remember a creepy-looking Santa who smelled funny asking me what I wanted when we went to Marshall Fields. The best present I can remember from when I was a kid, was a hockey stick I received. Whoever gave it to me included a roll of black tape so I could wrap the blade the way the players on the Chicago Blackhawks did. I probably played hockey with it, but mainly I remember walking around the neighborhood with it over my shoulder, looking cool. What I remember most about Christmas presents are the ones I didn’t get. Each year I asked for: 1) an archery set; 2) a hunting knife; 3) a b-b gun; and 4) a chemistry set. My mother explained that I would not get any of them because: A) I would hurt somebody; B) I would shoot my eye out; C) I’d blow the house up. I still want these things for Christmas but now my wife says “no”, for all the same reasons! One year I did get a stupid little bow with wooden arrows that had suction cups on them. My grandmother took it away one month later when she found me in the basement using her carving knife to whittle points on the arrows. C’mon, how can a kid go hunting in the woods without real arrows?
As I moved from the kid phase into the “not a kid”, I found out that now I had to ask others what they wanted for Christmas. I also discovered that the holidays meant a lot of drinking, office parties, house parties, and the endless “stop-by for a Christmas drink”. The holidays, the alcoholic’s custom-made excuse for “a-drink” days. I never really liked shopping to buy Christmas gifts until I discovered that Ace Liquors sold your favorite booze in a stylish holiday decanter, which came in the attractive gift box, ready to give as a present. I could do all my Christmas shopping in one stop! Christmas morning soon became a blur of lights and family as I sat each year with my coffee cup, laced with brandy, trying to stop the shakes while I slid off into that alcoholic fantasy world. Despite the protests and offers of help from others, this continued until one Christmas there was no family. Just me. And my coffee Cup. And my booze.
On June 21, 1987 I began my journey into sobriety. As I struggled along, one day at a time, I began to think that, “maybe I can do this.” Suddenly an insurmountable obstacle appeared before me…..the holidays. An overwhelming sense of helplessness overcame me as I tried to imagine getting through the upcoming days without a drink. Somehow, I managed to accept that I needed to combine the two types of people who receive Christmas presents into one. I would give the kid in me a Christmas present and I would do this just for me. On Christmas of 1987 I gave myself a Christmas present – the gift of recovery. This has worked out so well that for each holiday, I give myself the same gift, and on Christmas morning I will be drinking regular coffee with my family.
To all of our alums, please let me wish you a joyous holiday season and my hope that you will give yourself this wonderful gift of recovery. Our aftercare group continues to meet on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.; OA and AA meetings at the office/village on Wednesdays at 8:15 p.m. and Fireside AA meeting on Sundays in the village at 6:00 p.m. As always, our staff is here for you by phone. I hope we will hear from you.
Well, that’s my story about the Christmas gift. I guess those wise men started a pretty good thing, after all. Sometime about Christmas I will find a quiet place to say thanks. Oh! And I will do one more thing. On Christmas morning, while my family is still sleeping, I will allow the kid in me to awake very early. I will quietly slip out of bed and check all around and under the Christmas tree. I will be looking for a present in a 4-1/2 foot, oblong-shaped package with my name on it. Maybe this year, I’ll get that archery set.