For 20 years, I worked in the hospitality industry. So, each New Year’s Eve, I worked, and my purpose was to facilitate the experiences of others. I enjoyed this aspect of my work, but I allowed the hospitality environment to endorse my addictive behaviors.
Over the years, these behaviors exponentially increased until that enjoyment faded, and there was nothing left of who I was, just what I could provide for others. It was easy this way because I never had to look inward, examine myself, recognize how bad things had gotten for me, and how selfish and pathologically dishonest I had become.
If I was always only concerned about the experience of a guest walking through the door of a restaurant, then I never had to reconcile the person I had become.
I used heroin in secret for seven years. When I entered recovery, I met a large group of people who had struggled the way I had struggled. Their internal state and past were the same scorched earth as mine. In that similarity, there was a shared understanding, a commonality, a connection that had been missing from my life that made it okay to let go of the performative nature of my existence.
Giving power to the illusion that everything was okay was not something I had to do with these people. It seemed…. unnecessary. It was a gift, it felt like. So, being able to share new experiences, like being sober on New Year’s for the first time, was attractive to me for once in my life because of the people I surrounded myself with.
Attending a party that grew out of the sober house network I was involved with and participating in the dark humor and deep belly laughs with these people was one of the first times I remember thinking to myself, “I think I’m going to be okay.”
I would have frowned on that type of New Year’s in the past, looked down on it, or been dismissive because it’s easier to mock things that we do not understand. But this was a real connection with other broken people who wanted to be better, a shared tragedy of the past, and there is power there.
In Italian, the word “meraviglia” translates as wonder or awe. It also means when one’s expectation of a thing differs from the actual experience. In the past, for many years of my life, I would have never taken that step to understand what that meant. I would have let fear keep my world very small, a place where I could keep my secrets safe. Now, I yearn for that experience.
So, if there is one good piece of advice I can give to someone newly sober on New Year’s, it would be to stay close to those connections you have made and do something that challenges the faulty narrative you have of yourself.
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