by Rick R.
How appropriate it seems that there are 12 months in a year and we have 12 steps in the program. The joy of good living is the theme of the 12th Step. It blends right in with the holiday season in November and December, starting with Thanksgiving and ending with the New Year’s Eve celebration. This time of year does bring a lot of joy to many of us, but it also brings distress to some of the less fortunate ones who haven’t yet been blessed with the gift of sobriety and peace of mind, in and outside of A.A.
During my drinking days I used to be very uncomfortable about the holidays. I never knew how to act around normal people unless I was half smashed. When invited to a celebration, I felt like a charity case and would rather just hang out at the bar where I felt safe. I never got into the spirit of reaching out to others. My family always celebrated the different holidays; I always (due to my discomfort) would put a damper on it by complaining about the tacky gifts that people would buy for each other, the mad rush to go shopping and the commercialized facade that it had become. Any excuse was better than facing myself and the miserable wretch I had become.
After being sober for several years it occurred to me I still had some of those same attitudes. I was still holding on to them largely due to the inconvenience of it all. I explained this problem to a dear friend once.
“Does the rest of the family enjoy the holidays?”
He asked, “Does the rest of the family enjoy the holidays?” I said yes. He suggested, “Why don’t you just take a back seat and watch the joy in their eyes as they experience these things?” I did exactly what he suggested. When I started to observe the childlike innocence and happiness it brought to them, it gave me a whole new appreciation for this time of year. It brought tears to my eyes and I no longer wanted to be the grouch or put a damper on the their joy. I have been following this line of thinking ever since and it has changed my whole attitude concerning these things. This change of attitude has inspired me to apply the unselfish lessons that I’ve come to understand, so now I spend the holiday season filled with joy. If it works like that for the holidays, then why can’t I bring it with me for the rest of the year?
Bring it for the rest of the year
This has been my mission for several years, and I am always looking for the opportunity to brighten the lives of people less fortunate than myself. I do these things anonymously and without fanfare. I also try to consider the discomfort that I used to feel when I was the one on the receiving end of a charitable gesture.
I am very careful to do these things in a way that preserves the dignity of the other person. I don’t have to wait for the holidays to do these things. Every day is a holiday inside and outside of my home, and you can believe me when I say: I reap more than my share of the joy.