“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” — Mother Teresa
“Christmas will always be as long as we stand heart to heart and hand in hand.” — Dr. Seuss
Winston Churchill, famed UK prime minister, once stated, “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.” For all of us, particularly for addicts, this Christmas holds much to reflect upon. Many of us are nursing wounds, grieving losses and soothing anxieties from terrific trials triggered by an unprecedented pandemic that has derailed the sobriety of many. Financial stress, unemployment, loneliness, isolation and decreased access to recovery resources have played havoc on the lives of addicts around the world. The yuletide enterprise urges each addict to quiet your heart and contemplate the components that cultivate a commitment to temperance and deepen serenity.
C – choosing to utilize the courage to change and commit to consistent conduct that program demands means that you had to be flexible in 2020. Shifting from in person 12-step meetings to connecting through online Zoom meetings has been a big adjustment. Yet, it has always commanded a choice to be supple and flexible whereby you are asked to bend your program but not break. You say to yourself “I don’t like Zoom meetings”, but I hate the crash and burn in relapse far greater. Christmas is a time to celebrate the choice of recovery during perilous times
H – Humility is the essence of recovery. When faced with fear of failure and human frailty, rather than to discard recovery wisdom or sage pandemic foresight, humility requires that we neither compare nor minimize but accept reality in the here and now. It is simply the acceptance of being human. Dag Hammarskjold in Markings said, “Humility is just as much the opposite of self-abasement as it is of self-exultation. To be humble is not to make comparisons. Secure in its reality, the self is neither better nor worse, bigger nor smaller, than anything else in the universe. It is nothing, yet at the same time one with everything.” Now is the season in time to embrace the humility of recovery that reminds each addict that in our human frailty we are connected to all sentient beings in the universe.
R – Recovery underscores soulful reality. John Legend wrote, “Soul is about authenticity. Soul is about finding the things in your life that are real and pure.” This is recovery. Pandemic, racial tension, and election stress all bring home the reality of limitation and underscore the vulnerability of being human. Authentic recovery embraces the uncertainty of our times with the convictions that you can go down and come back up. It is not about establishing a commitment to behavior that controls outside results.
I – is about insulation, not isolation. St. John of the Cross wrote, “The virtuous soul that is alone is like a lone burning coal; it will grow colder rather than hotter”. In the midst of pandemic social distancing, it has never been more important for addicts to insulate themselves with spirit connection in context to a 12-step community. We are creatures of connection, without which many of us have become the lone burning coal that has grown colder and have lost the heat of intensity to remain sober.
S – this is a season to accentuate sacrifice. Some of the great stories in the midst of pandemic hysteria, racial stress, and election tension are about examples of those who have stepped back to become less so that others can become more in the face of human tragedy. The elderly, the vulnerable, and the underprivileged are counting on those in the 12-step community who have learned the grateful richness of sacrificing privilege for the betterment of those in community who are more vulnerable. The test is not whether you should wear a mask. Rather, would you do what is required to remove the millstone from those who struggle with addiction, inequality and those who struggle to literally to breathe. During this time of reflection, this is our task.
T – The Dalai Lama writes, “We overcome hatred and prejudice with understanding, cooperation, and tolerance!” When we close our hearts with judgment and isolation, we separate ourselves from the vision of tolerance. By doing so, we promote coldness and penetrating loneliness that divides and ultimately destroys human connection. Twelve-step meetings embrace being open to differences. When walking into a Twelve-Step meeting, it is like saying “I am not the same as you, but I am connected to you through common struggle and suffering of a shared addictive behavior.” What would it be if we spread this 12-step spirit to a fear-plagued world around us?
M – Over three hundred thousand American lives have been lost to an irreverent COVID virus that shows no respect of boundaries or compacts among communities. We may be hesitant to adopt the proper protocols but COVID has its own profane purpose to weave havoc and devastation wherever it travels. This is a season to excavate meaningfulness from this mindless virus travesty. The pandemic promotes limits. Addicts have learned the safety of boundaries and limits. Only when addicts conform to their limits are they safe and sound. Christmas Day is an ordained time for each of us, addict and non-addict alike, to clarify our limits and practice living within the confines of safe boundaries. As long as addicts stay within the confines of healthy boundaries and respect limitation, they are safe from the hazards that lead to acting out. May our communities at large practice this recovery value in the face of current crisis.
A – Acceptance requires surrender. Once you have done everything you know to remain sober, once you have done your best to remain COVID free, you must surrender. For the addict, peace comes only when you face what you do not want to address and only then can you let go and surrender. It’s true in the face of our country’s crisis. Once you have faced what you have needed to face and are willing to address what is in front of you, you can find contentment and accept what is. It doesn’t mean that you are not committed to what is not acceptable it simply means you have accepted what is in the here and now.
S – Christmas is the season to savor the experience of life. This is what brings meaningfulness to the struggle, the sorrow and suffering of everything you have experienced in your life. It is time to quietly celebrate that you made it this far without any guarantee for tomorrow. Yet, as a recovering addict you can savor hard earned sobriety and celebrate the serenity that comes to those who are not willing to accept hypocrisy, inconsistency and incongruency in the pursuit of recovery. You can quietly express gratitude for all that the universe has brought to you on this blessed Holiday. Merry Christmas to every addict, everyone who struggles, and to all who have lost loved ones to the crisis of COVID.
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