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Celebrating the True Gifts: Writing Christmas Cards in Early Recovery

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

As I sit down to write my Christmas cards this year, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for

my sobriety. Twenty-four years ago, when I was in early recovery, my experience was very

different— it actually brought about an intense craving to drink and almost took me out.

It was a chilly December night back in 1999. The stage was set. My darling son, Jack,

was snug as a bug asleep upstairs, and the sound of crackling logs in the fireplace accompanied Johnnie Mathis crooning “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” in the background. I had my gold trimmed cards laid out on the dining room table along with my favorite green and red pens. I cherished this tradition which always enveloped me in reminiscing and reflecting.

As I sat down to write, something shifted —I felt a surge of sadness. Although my divorce was in the rear view, seeing just a picture of Jack standing alone instead of with me and his dad struck me. I tried to shrug it off, but as I began to write, a craving to drink swelled inside of me. It started slowly and then it engulfed me. I felt sucker punched – a craving to drink came out of nowhere. I had a flashing thought: maybe I could just quickly drive down to the liquor store… that would be ok, wouldn’t it? Jack would be ok left alone for just a few minutes wouldn’t he? And that was it. I was in trouble, and it felt excruciating. I had been practicing calling three other sober women a day, so I tried my sponsor first—no answer. Then two other women – no answer. I would try one more person, and then F*** it! Thank God for Patty R. She answered, and she listened. She listened to me cry about my life not turning out the way I wanted it to. I cried about my divorce, and then I cried about losing my friend, alcohol, which was no longer invited to the party. I always, and I mean always, enjoyed a bottle of wine to add to the ambience and help kindle my Christmas spirit. That’s what was missing. Patty advised me to put the pens down, set the cards aside, and to do them in the morning with a cup of coffee—a very practical suggestion. I moved a muscle by picking up the phone, and I changed a thought.

The holidays can be a very tricky time to navigate if you are working on being substance free. As a recovery coach, I often share my Christmas card story with my clients as it highlights the importance of being on the lookout for triggers. While some triggers may be obvious like attending a holiday party, or family tensions, there are other triggers that are not so obvious and might catch you off guard. Availing yourself of extra guidance and support during the holiday season can be so important.

All these years later, I still write my Christmas cards in the morning with a cup of coffee.

There are now six people on the front of my card reminding me of the many gifts of sobriety. I feel blessed to be surrounded by my husband, and our children and their significant others—it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


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