I tear up as I read this article because Christmas 2008, we were a family in early recovery. Ted had a 24 hour leave at home from treatment to be with us. It was weird and wonderful — at the exact same time.
By then I had been working my own program of recovery from the effects Ted’s addiction had on me. Peace, serenity and joy were surfacing and as much as Ted was changing, I was changing. I remember Christmas Eve day, all three sons peering into the kitchen pantry sharing a lighthearted moment of scrounging for food. I made a joke. They laughed. A risky move on my part — they’re a tough crowd with mom-jokes but more than that, I hadn’t made any for a long time. As I stood there laughing with them, I thought — “I’m back.” We’re back.
That day was awkward. Our extended family was gracious to skip the alcohol and although everyone in our small Christmas Eve gathering knew the circumstances, we strove for normality. Mostly I remember this almost palpable more-quiet-than-usual atmosphere of profound gratitude. No mushy speeches, but as though our loved one had survived a shipwreck and been rescued, we absorbed the profundity of being one family again. Not just Ted, but each person was important to the whole. I think we appreciated that more than we ever had before.
Getting our sea legs of early recovery we tried to accept the reality that there is now a new Nielsen normal and we aren’t going to do it perfectly, but we are recovering together. As alcoholism/addiction is a family disease, recovery is a family exercise we all had to practice. For us, a climate of honesty was our credo. When someone was uncomfortable with something or worried or triggered, we had permission to say so without judgement.
So far, after ten years, I don’t take that 24 hours for granted, or any Christmas 24 since then. Partly because I fully realize that not everyone has their loved one back at the table. The mystery of who, what, when and why is ever present. The truth is also present in all contexts; God with us, Emanuel.