Christmas is the holiday in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. In my family, Christmas is a joyous time of the year where family comes together to express our love for each other with gifts, festivities, and other traditions. Christmas is the holiday that makes me feel the most warmth inside. It is a reminder of how important family really is. Christmas has always been an exciting time of the year, especially during my childhood. I remember believing in the mysterious Santa Claus that I could never stay awake long enough to prove his existence, until the next morning, finding the gifts he left around the tree. I was always amazed and filled with laughter and joy as I spent the holiday with love from my family. Christmas traditions will always be held in my family and passed down through generations to show the importance of connection and the miracle of love that Christmas brings.
For most of my life, holidays have been hard for me, especially Christmas. Before I got sober, I never enjoyed anything that came with Christmas, unless I got presents. That was all Christmas meant to me. I also thought everyone else perceived it the same, as well. I used to spend Christmas alone and high in a dark room somewhere. It wasn’t until coming to South Orange County Detox and Treatment that I actually got a feeling of love, community, and true friendship. Now, I understand that Christmas is not about the presents, but about being around the people you care about and having a good time celebrating Jesus’s Day of Birth. Without Him, I would not be here today.
Growing up, Christmas was a Holiday I enjoyed because it was the only day everyone was home and together. Christmas brings up a good emotion when I think of it. After my parents split, holidays became a joke kind of like when you learn Santa isn’t real, that’s how I feel about every holiday. We live in such a society where unfinished work gets rewarded. Basically, I do not understand the significant of holidays. This past year I have opened my heart up to Christianity and figured I would tune in and celebrate the day for what it really is, Jesus Christ’s birthday. God brought Jesus into this world to set an example for us to live proper and genuine as a whole. The meaning of Christmas to me this year, given the time and place I am at in my life, is to remind myself what God has done in my life by bringing wonderful people into my world who God has chosen to speak through. Everything I am Grateful for today is my Present, along with me being off the streets which is my present to My Family.
This week at South Orange County Detox & Treatment, in preparation for Christmas, we will be discussing the gifts that are granted to us during sobriety. I use the word granted somewhat lightly as the majority of these gifts are not granted but rather earned through a commitment to a new way of life where we ascend from the chains of bondage to instinctual desires to a higher plane of understanding and wisdom. It is in this realm, and only this realm, that true healing can begin. One of the first gifts I received, personally, was the reunification with my friends and family. Relationships that I had harvested throughout life had been utterly devastated by my drug and alcohol use were restored which reinvigorated my sense of connection to personal relationships and humanity as a whole. The empathy and compassion that was gifted to me, and of which I also worked for, also helped facilitate a new perspective in myself that prioritized understanding and honesty over manipulation and personal gain. It is important to note also that the gifts we receive in recovery are qualitatively different than those we would assume to gain while in addiction. Recovery gifts are composed of lasting qualities that aid us in persevering through difficult times. In other words, these gifts tend to express their value over time as opposed to the immediate gratification that comes from more hedonistic pleasure. To use an analogy, would you prefer to eat a microwavable Salisbury Steak or a brisket that has been slow cooked to perfection over the course of the day? Lest one be a sadist, the answer is obvious. We sacrifice the immediacy of pleasure for the prospect of a more quality experience to come later which is exactly the perspective we need in recovery to fully appreciate the gifts that come along with it. On a more basic level, we there are gifts that appear in the form of restored physical heath, a reconnection to our emotions and a reintegration of them into our experiences, and the psychological clarity that allows us to make rationally-based decisions. There are also “higher-order” gifts that come with sobriety such as a renewed sense of the importance of integrity, a commitment to honesty in relation to others and ourselves, a replenished sense of spirit or the connection to one’s Higher Power, and the reclamation of a solid sense of who we are and what our purpose is. In the first edition of the Big Book, Bill speaks of the ascension of addicts into sobriety and states, “We have found much of heaven and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.” I was quite shocked to see Bill W. this type of terminology to explain the experience of addicts as it is far more existential than his typical message. The reason I chose this quote, however, is because it highlights, with perfect accuracy, the experience of one who is deeply committed to their sobriety as well as personal evolution and growth. Bill is not being hyperbolic but rather stating his path of rising to a different plane of perception that requires much more from us human beings, but that promises that a commitment to this journey will not only be rewarding, but will propel us into an elevated level of understanding, acceptance, wisdom and serenity, the likes of which we have never experienced.
I am learning to try and be attuned with the people in my life who I care about by being curious about them and by asking how they are doing and feeling. For me, being attuned means learning about another person in order to understand them and what makes them tick. I try to put differences with people aside, and look for similarities. Sometimes I jump too quickly to judgements and I interpret something they said as wrong because my head will only look at the negativity in a situation. I’m working on having patience and understanding with people instead of jumping to conclusions. Also, I learn a lot about people by paying attention to body movements and mannerisms because these are signals as to how they are feeling. With people I deeply care for, I try to read cues and only engage in discussions that will help them feel better, avoiding the things they don’t want to hear. Sometimes this triggers my co-dependency and can steer me into bad places by withholding too much in an effort to please that person. There are a lot of people that say they like constructive criticism but the reality is they do not want this at all. I find that, for me, it’s really difficult to turn off my awareness which allows me to be more attuned to people. Sometimes I feel like my awareness is a radar going off and I feel the need to look away but I’m also learning that there are times where it is healthy to point out things that I’ve noticed in people that I feel attuned to so that they can also be aware and work to change. I didn’t understand my co-dependency until I got to South Orange County Detox & Treatment, where Salina has shown me that sometimes being nice isn’t actually nice at all! With that being said, the most important thing I can say about attunement is that I’m finally learning to be attuned with myself which has been a journey of self-exploration and fulfillment.
When I am engaged in a conversation or situation that involves someone’s feelings, I find it helpful to be attuned to this person not only so I can manage the scenario better, but also so I can better understand what is going on with them. I feel that making the effort to be attuned to someone else is the ultimate way to show respect because you are considering their thoughts and feelings. This is helpful because it puts me in a state of mind where I am able to respond and give feedback if necessary. I also find it important to try and be attuned to what people are saying so that I can actually listen to what they are trying to convey. This also makes the other person feel good because it shows them that you are interested and engaged. The most important reason that I try and ensure I am attuned to others is because if I am aware of a negative emotional state that they are in, I can do a better job at being helpful and supportive if they are suffering.
In order to be in a true relationship that is worth keeping, it is important to be attuned to your partner, family member and/or friend. It’s important to be able to understand other people’s feelings as well as be able to be aware of your own feelings. Sometimes I can misinterpret other people’s feelings, especially if that person is expressing feelings that are foreign to me or that I don’t understand. If I don’t learn to understand those feelings in someone else, or in identify them in myself, it could potentially turn into anger or depression which can go against my intentions of trying to help someone else. Personally, when I get angry, the temperature in my body raises and I feel restless; those are some of the signs that I may not be aware of how I’m really truly feeling. When I am able to understand and stay attuned to another person’s pain, I am able to comfort them and help them feel better. Being willing to stay attuned to another person can help you, and others, in so many ways throughout life. I’ve had experiences where I have stayed attuned to friend or family member in distress which ultimately has lead to saving that person’s life in one way or another. We all have opportunities to work on attunement with friends, family, and those we care about but sometimes we don’t take advantage of those times. If you are fortunate enough to find people that will work to attune themselves to you, you are blessed! Fortunately for me, I have Salina and South Orange County Detox and Treatment who commit so much time to being attuned to us clients. Salina and the staff are dedicated to helping all of us to get another chance at a new life and because of that, instead of chaos, I can now live in harmony.
Being attuned to something means to be in harmony with it. Being attuned with God is important to me because I need to be on the spiritual path and I need to constantly be checking in with Him in order to make sure I am on the same page. I am also working on being attuned to my family, friends, and sponsor because if I am not attuned with them we might class and I may not understand what the problem is. I don’t want any of them to drag me down and vice versa because in order to be a good friend, father, and husband I need to be attuned to the people I love so that he can help lift them up. I am committed to going down a positive path in my recovery and I believe this will attract other positive people which will help to improve everyone’s understanding of each other.
For our ongoing Word of the Week series here at South Orange County Detox, we will be focusing on the importance of attunement as it relates to relationships in sobriety. It is difficult to speak honestly about the importance of honesty in recovery if there’s one has not become attuned with one’s own inner-truth and voice. While in active addiction, there is no room for our true selves to flourish because they have been necessarily hijacked in order to make room for the hedonistic and destructive goals of our addicted and contaminated ego forces. In that state, there is no vestige of hope, and beyond that even, there is no chance of a harmonious reconciliation with the divine truth within us. In order to attune ourselves with our personal inner truth, the plight of our loved one, and ultimately, with our Higher Power, we must first take a leap of faith, “put the plug in the jug”, and be willing to relinquish the repetitive pattern of self-destruction. Attunement is best utilized when applied to the 3 facets of our interpersonal relationships, relationship to ourselves, and our relationship with God, in order to work in unison and provide clarity during the most hazy of times. Now that we have established the goal, lets talk a little bit about how to achieve it. It is my opinion that there isn’t a technique, per se, on how to attune oneself effectively, however, I believe the best facilitator of this action is through the practice of mindfulness. I have made the mistake for most of my life with respect to my approach to attunement as I have believed that if I worked to “figure out” the mechanics of how myself, or someone else works, I can attune myself to these perceived functions in order to better grasp the plight of the individual in question. While this approach isn’t futile, it certainly is less effective and far less authentic than merely being able to be present with that person and being able to meet them then and there, in whatever state they are in. This act not only personifies compassion, but it transmits a signal of deep respect and understanding for the unique inner-world of the individual. It always requires patience so that we may be led to understand their experiences as opposed to guiding them into the pre-established framework that was forged prior to any encounter. Finally, through prayer, meditation, and right action, we can harvest attunement with our Higher Power in order to help ourselves to further delineate our vision so that we can progress forward with grace and integrity.
Throughout this journey of recovery I have put myself through a lot of unnecessary trials that have made it difficult to live serene and happy on a regular basis. Drugs, alcohol, gangs, lies, etc., all buried me in depression, doubt, danger, and hopelessness. I wanted to end all of this pain, and I thought it was too late for me. I had to make a choice to start living or to start dying, and dying was just too easy. I knew myself before the drugs and I was a good person and I recognized that this is when I was truly living. I wanted that life and in order to get it back I couldn’t let any of these old temptations get in my way. I had to fight though the doubt and pain to achieve happiness and contentment. The only way to push forward is to hold on tightly, maintain my resilience, and never give up.