Home for the holidays, and I believe I’ve missed each and every face. The first line in the song “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins. It’s a song I lived by since the first time I heard it. I remember after I had graduated from high school, I would look forward to coming home from college for the holidays. To see old friends, catch up and tell tall tales, and of course to party. Because of my partying, however, I was forced to come back home and attend the local junior college. So I really looked forward to the holidays because that was the time my old friends would come back. We would meet up at the old Wewoka Switch before Thanksgiving or Christmas. I would excitedly drive through the parking lot to see if I recognized any cars and when I did, I would quickly park and make my way into the bar. Usually I was an out of control drinker and would find myself hungover and sick the next day. Too sick to enjoy the time with my family. As the years passed I would repeat this pattern. It wasn’t until December 10, 1986, that I finally hit bottom and had my last drink at my beloved bar.
Being brand new sober is so hard. Everything is new and not in a good way. When I started drinking and using drugs on a regular basis at age 15, I developed a coping system to deal with anything that came my way. My whole life centered around drinking and getting high. When I started drinking and using, I stopped growing emotionally. Two weeks after I got sober, I was talking to a family member, and I remember him asking me how I was doing. I said “I’m doing great! I haven’t had a drink or a drug in two weeks!” He told me, “Linda, it’s one thing to be sober, but you have to learn how to live sober.” I hope I never forget those words. I had to learn how to live. I was walking around with the emotions of a 15-year-old (actually, I would say even younger) and I had no idea how to take care of myself. At 24, I had to grow up. And that is usually the case for those who are brand new in sobriety.
I was like a kid in a candy store, I had no self-control when it came to alcohol or other drugs. If my feelings were hurt, or if I felt sad, or if I wanted to celebrate, it was best that I wasn’t around alcohol or drugs. One of the first things I learned in sobriety was that I was the one responsible for my recovery, not anyone else. When the holidays would come up, I had to be on guard. I was fortunate, when I got sober, I could go home and be with my family. Some of my friends didn’t have a place to go, so they would go to an AA or NA group that would open their doors and have lots of food and fellowship. I also attended extra recovery meetings. I still had that habit of checking out the cars in parking lots but now it was at recovery meetings. I would be so excited when I saw an old friend in recovery. I had lots of phone numbers of people in recovery and practiced using the phone. I watched where I went and would only go to places that were safe. I’d have to ask myself “Is there going to be drinking or drugs there?” and if the answer was yes, it wasn’t the place for me.
These days, although I am 35 years sober, I am very aware that holidays bring up old memories. This is the 6th holiday season without my mom and the first without my oldest brother and my good friends Sissy and Vicki. I remember I am just one drink or drug away from the person I used to be.
If you find the holidays to be a difficult time, or find you can’t control your use of alcohol or other drugs, please reach out to Gateway to Prevention and Recovery at 273-1170 x0. We can help.
Linda Swearingen has worked as a Therapist at Gateway to Prevention and Recovery for the past 30 years. She is currently the supervisor at the Chandler and Seminole offices. She is the Youth Leader at Seminole First United Methodist Church. She is the proud mother of a 13 year old daughter, Alea.