Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Christmas Gift

In the early years of living with bipolar disorder I had the experience of being hospitalized twice on Christmas Day. On one of these particular days I was given a day pass to come home to spend the holiday with my parents. This was particularly difficult (and even more so for my Mom and Dad, I suspect).

This same scenario has been played out countless times over the years for many individuals. The simple act of going home for the day only to have to return to the hospital can be demoralizing. In many cases, those who are in an inpatient program don’t have the supports available to help them get a coveted day pass. For others, their condition is so severe that getting out for the day wouldn’t be advisable due to their lack of stability.

Regardless, the holiday season is difficult for many people who live with a mental health condition. The feelings of isolation and disconnection make an already hard time of year even harder.

And then there are those who live with substance use disorders. The family gatherings that often times are alcohol-focused can be tremendously hard for the person in recovery who is trying to remain abstinent. And with so many living with co-occurring disorders, it’s like the classic “double whammy” that makes this time of year one of the hardest to manage. Finding others who are supportive is crucial in getting through these days.

For me, over time as I progressed in my recovery, things got better. Once I got clean and stopped using, I experienced a newfound freedom; one that I had never previously had. This didn’t happen overnight, but as time passed things improved. Being released from the bondage of drug and alcohol use that kept me incapacitated for so many years was an incredible gift.

In my personal recovery journey, I attribute this freedom to several things. First, a sincere belief in a Power greater than myself. Second, family and friends who have been supportive in so many ways. And finally, a degree of persistence and perseverance that has created in me an indomitable spirit that has proven to help me overcome so many adverse situations in my life that would have otherwise broken my spirit.

The main thing that I have come to realize is that recovery is a process that has taken both time and hard work. Yes, I believe in miracles and I consider the life that I and so many others in recovery have is nothing short of a gift from God. And yes, trust me, I have been the beneficiary of God’s grace, in more ways than I can count. But as I say in my mantram, “RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE!”

If you find yourself in a difficult place this year, know that there is a Presence that loves you. Unfortunately, our society places so much value on the holiday season. And yes, there is the belief that it should be a happy time for everyone. But true happiness comes from within. With this understanding, you can realize that you are never truly alone.

However, if you know someone who finds themselves without anyone to spend the holiday, let them know that you care. Whether it be a visit or even a phone call, reaching out can make a difference. This is a gift that cannot be wrapped in a bow and paper. It is the gift of love. This is what the Christmas season is about. God’s love becoming manifest in a baby that would transform the world. And by following his example, we can make the world a less lonely place.

Wishing you hope, peace, joy and love in this wondrous season.

Be well!