The Story So Far – Chapter 14 – The First Christmas


As December approached and discussions at work turned to Christmas parties and how much alcohol our customers would give us all as tips.  I kept myself distant from any discussions, normally our Customers bring in either boxes of cans or give an amount of money as a donation, which is then used at the Christmas party.  The arrangements were made for a meal at an Indian Restaurant and then the obligatory pub crawl around town afterwards, I agreed to whatever arrangements, but made it clear I would not go on the pub crawl, which they accepted.

I wasn’t looking forward to the meal itself, I went and I joined in as best I could, but I felt uncomfortable all night.  Everyone knew the situation apart from the partner of one my colleges.  Obviously everyone else had a beer or a glass of wine, then there’s me with a coke and water, then you get that rather obvious question of why am I not drinking!   I have to say that I didn’t feel like explaining myself, not that I need to or not that I’m afraid to say I’m an alcoholic, but just at that moment in time, when I already felt uncomfortable, I really didn’t want to go through it, after a couple of rather awkward answers to her questions, her partner had a quiet work in her ear, she then left it, she looked rather embarrassed as she sat there.  Don’t get me wrong she was a generally nice person, ordinarily the none drinking would probably be the designated driver, asking those questions would have been fairly appropriate, but my reasons where deeper than that, maybe any other night or anywhere else I would not have had a problem answering them, but on this night I wasn’t in a comfortable place and this made it no better.

I made it through the meal and then left them all and walked home alone.  Thankfully I don’t live far from town and at the speed I walk, it only took about fifteen minutes, I still got home in time to watch Match of the Day with my son.

Although it was rather an uncomfortable evening, by the time I got home I was actually pretty pleased with myself.  I saw this as a big test of my sobriety, a big test of my will power.  The year before I had joined in and followed them all uncomfortably around town drinking along with them, although not enjoying it, I never liked pub crawls after all, I drank pints until I felt full and then went on to glasses of rum, the only spirit that I ever liked.  That time I got home a little worse for wear and had the hangover the next morning.  The funny thing was I could sit at home and drink more, much more and not feel anything the next day, I always had that kind of fuzziness, that permanent hangover I guess, but it was only when I went out like this that I got what most people would consider a hangover.

So I knew that getting through the night and once again walking home alone, getting through even being extremely uncomfortable, but still not being tempted by the drink was a victory.  It’s strange that although being apprehensive beforehand and uncomfortable throughout, I do not remember ever being tempted by a drink, all around me were drinking, but I knew I couldn’t, I knew I didn’t want to, I was enjoying this sober life, everything was going well and to give in now, would be to let down the Father who had given me the strength to overcome situations like this.

There were a number of other things bothering me about Christmas, usually Christmas is a time of drinking more than ever, usually I would have more alcohol in the house than normal.  I also had a tradition of going into town and buying a bottle or two of sparkling wine to go with Christmas dinner, normally my everyday bottles of wine were fairly cheap, the more I could get for the less money the better, but for Christmas dinner I would normally treat myself, something a little more expensive, not that expensive, I didn’t have that much money, but a little treat to myself, being as I would be the only one that would drink it.

Also I would get an amount of alcohol as Christmas presents too.  If people didn’t know what to buy me, they would usually resort to a few bottles or can of beer, a bottle of wine or a bottle of rum.  It was a safe bet that I would get alcohol at Christmas, plus there would usually be a box of Chocolate Liquors.  Most people I knew had probably heard by then that I had quit drinking, but in all honesty probably did not know the reason why, they didn’t know how it had taken over my life, my thoughts, my actions, my everything.  I had been fairly open and honest about it over the previous nine months, but it’s not something that you are really going to broadcast to the whole world.

Yes I started a blog, I put it on there, but I had been careful as to which circles I put that content out to, I posted on Twitter, but not Facebook.  I came to realise that most of the people I knew on Facebook broadcast every part of their life, striving only for comments and sympathy or used it as a political soapbox to force their views on others or ridicule others.  Although I wasn’t ashamed of my story and my problem, I was careful to avoid what I deemed to be a negative place.

I had lived in such negativity, that I was keen to cut out anything that I deemed negative, that even included beginning to distance myself from those around me that had a negative outlook.

So when it came to Christmas Day, I was surprised and somewhat relieved when all I got was the obligatory shower gel, socks and deodorant!  Okay not the most exciting of presents, but I was actually pretty pleased with the haul as I didn’t have to face my biggest enemy.

Even that fear of chocolate liquors was all in vain.  I researched them on the internet in the run up to Christmas, but still couldn’t make my mind up as to whether they actually contained any alcohol or not, I guess some did and other’s didn’t, but regardless I had made my mind up that I wouldn’t touch them, even if they didn’t.  Out of principle and peace of mind, it was easier to just refuse them, than to just never be sure, in the end though, all this was unnecessary as I didn’t get any anyway!

Getting through Christmas Day itself was a bit of a victory too.  I was dreading being alone, I could have gone to my Mum and Dad’s for dinner, but chose not to, my Mum means well, but she can’t half pester and question you to the point you really want to snap!  In the end Victoria’s Mum asked if I wanted to join them for lunch, I agreed and after Church I set off there.  It went okay, it was good to see Victoria’s brothers again, we always got on well, also it was good to spend at least part of Christmas day with the kids.  Mid afternoon they all went to Victoria’s Nan’s and I went home.  I have to be honest and say I cried a little when I got home, the silence of the place seemed more intense with it being Christmas Day, but I soon fell asleep and slept it all off.  They came home earlier than usual and I spent the evening with the kids, which made for a good day in the end, far better than I was actually expected, I really didn’t want to face my first Christmas Day without the kids or without alcohol for that matter.  But apart from a few tears in the afternoon, I got through it.

By Christmas my blog had really began to take off.  I was really enjoying writing all the posts and exploring the blogs of other recovering addicts and followers of Christ.  I was gaining regular followers and receiving some pretty amazing comments, commending my fight for sobriety and my testimony.  I had even begun to branch out, to included photography, mainly of all the amazing sunrises I encountered during my morning walks, but interestingly I started writing poetry.

It came from ideas and thoughts that I had whilst walking, in time I just decided to start writing them down.  When I look back now a lot of that earlier experimentation with poetry I now really dislike, many I never really connected with, I was just trying something new, I went with it, but never felt comfortable posting some of it.  The only ones I seemed to find comfortable posting were the ones that were primarily between me and God, eventually my poetry became all faith based.

I found that in the low times, when I was struggling, I would just put it all down in a poem, like a written prayer.  Then I would get a feeling for what God was saying to me in response and I would write that down, into a poem too, like a conversation between the two of us, but all in poems.

I still write that way, I often write in prayer and answer, sometimes separate poems, sometimes the conversation runs through a single poem, a verse of prayer, then a verse of God’s response and so on.  Over time in my lowest moments, I would find myself awake in the middle of the night, writing it all down in a poem, then I would put it straight on to my blog and post it, in a strange way it lifted much of the pain, somehow in doing that I found a peace, I let go of the problem, it’s a formula that works for me now.

As the New Year came around I was doing really well, I was still walking every morning, whatever the weather, in fact my best ever walk took place on a dark morning in a snow storm in the middle of January.  There was no one else to be seen, the street’s were deserted, but the old the cycle track was alive.  My footsteps weren’t the first ones in the snow that morning, they may have been the first human steps along the path, but the hundreds of rabbits and hares scampering around me, seemed to be enjoying the snow.   Also for the one and only time, on my walks down the track, I caught sight of a couple of foxes running freely along the track in front of me, they didn’t seem to bothered by me, as they ran along ahead, but I had never seen them before and alas I’ve never seen them since.

The cycle track takes me by a small lake, it’s an old gravel pit that was flooded some years ago, the track passes it and I walk by it every morning on the way to work, but if I time it right the lake really catches the sunrise.  I often found I would sit there as the sun rose, reading the bible and taking pictures of the scene before me.  It didn’t matter how cold it was, I would sit there in the early hours of the morning, maybe the odd dog walker would pass by, some of whom I became friends with, but mainly just me, the birds on the lake, the sunrise and God, it was an amazing way to start the day.

I found when I was walking in the morning, the days were always so much better, that time with God set me up for the day.  The odd days when I didn’t get out walking, then for some reason my days just didn’t have that same balance, things just didn’t seem as good and I knew why, so the next morning I would do everything I could to get back out again.

I made it through the year and I did not even collapse
Gotta say “Thank God for that.”
I’m torn between what keeps me whole and what tears me in half
I’ll fall apart or stay in tact

With tired eyes I stumble back to bed
I need to realize my sorry life’s not hanging by a thread
At least not yet

So look at me now
it’s finally Christmas and I’m home
Head indoors, to get out of this weather
And I don’t know how
But the closest friends I’ve ever known are all inside
Siging together
Singing merry Christmas, here’s to many more

It always hurt to be all by myself this time of year
A cold and lonely Chirstmas Eve
And living out my days alone
Well that had been my deepest fear
But You promised You won’t leave

I look towards the east and see a star
Jesus Christ, has blessed my life to know just who You are
You are my hope

So look at me now
It’s finally Christmas and I’m home
Head indoors, to get out of this weather
And I don’t know how
But the closest friends I’ve ever known are all inside
Singing together
Singing merry Christmas, here’s to many more

Deck the halls with mistletoe
May all your heavy burdens go
Up the chimney in a cloud of smoke
The fire’s burning bright
Strike up the band and play the tune
‘Cause Christmas will be here and soon
You’ll hear oursong in every room
This merry Christmas night

Singing merry Christmas, here’s to many more

fa la la la
fa la la la

Singing together
Singing merry Christmas, here’s to many more

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