The Ultimate Rock Bottom of Christmas
For fifty plus years I enjoyed celebrating Christmas mornings with my family. I had never pictured myself waking and spending a morning in a residential rehab facility, let alone Christmas morning. My three kids at home with their mother, and where is dad? Rehab! That morning I thought to myself “I have definitely hit rock bottom.” The sensation of not being able to see my children’s smiling faces, opening presents and holding my wife absolutely killed me on the inside. The sorrow and shame I felt as a provider, a father, a role model; it is indescribable. How could it get any worse? This time was different, I stood strong by my words.
Waking up in a state of shock was the beginning of this Christmas morning day. Instead of my children and wife I was surrounded by fellow recovering residents of the rehab facility. I drank something that resembled a decent cup of coffee. Now, I always try to find the good in small events and as I reflect on this event I was extremely grateful for the sense of belonging and unity shared by the residents. I reminded myself that this is their Christmas morning as well, and at least we have each other. All of us felt a unified sense of shame, yet we were hopeful for a fresh start. My day continued to brighten as I found out my family and kids were allowed to visit in the afternoon on their way to my extended families’ annual gatherings; so many memories are filled with family and I was saddened that I could not join them this time around. When my kids arrived, so too did the tears. Have you ever seen a grown man cry? These tears flowed endlessly, I could have filled a gallon jug at the minimum. As I sat with my kids I shared a small poem I wrote during my reflection period.
No one could argue that I hadn’t felt and experienced the lows, the awakening, the depression the shock of be reality of a Christmas in rehab, but something else was still in play; my ego. We all have egos, but I was consumed by mine. In my previous rehab experiences my ego was so big that I would attend just to fake it to gain the approval of others. Instead of exposing my inner self and opening up my vulnerabilities to truly seek out change, I found myself succumbing to my ego to protect my pride. Has your ego ever spiraled out of control to the point where you are sacrificing special days with family and friends? I needed to silence my ego and let my true voice speak. The voice that needs to listen, forgive, heal, and love.
Later that day I managed to convince the staff and my family that I was ready, but I wasn’t. Two months later after an eight-day vodka binge resulting in a near death experience due to alcohol poisoning I re-admitted myself to the same rehab. Now you might be wondering, what the hell man? You just told me this grand story of Christmas, your kids, your wife; have you not learned your lesson? I also told you this was about the ultimate rock bottom. In my case it took the fear of death. My last and final rehab check in was due to me being scared to lose more than one Christmas day. I realized continuing down this destructive path would lead to a permanent loss. I walked in to the same rehab program with ego silenced, ready to listen, learn, and commit. I went the extra mile and intentionally stayed an extended amount to assure my recovery and sobriety. I finally took the mask off and revealed myself to my enemy; alcoholism. I exited the recovery center standing tall and feeling refreshed. As I walked out I thought to myself “this recovery was for me, it was mine.” With a sigh of relief I felt that I finally have something worth holding on to.
Contributor: Tim Van Den Berg