A low point
When my boys were very young, our family had a hell of a year. We’d just moved across the country for a job, and it was a terribly low point in our lives. We didn’t feel comfortable in our new state, it was tough to meet new friends, and our marriage was not in the best place. We’d recently dealt with some very serious health crises, and it just seemed like nothing was going our way. While we had hoped that the new job opportunity would be a solution to some of our external troubles, that ended up being a rocky road as well. Christmas, usually my favorite time of the year, was quickly approaching and I was depressed, anxious, and exhausted. This was probably the lowest point in my life, and I had had enough. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get my boys even the smallest of gifts from us, our family was almost 3000 miles away, and I felt lonely and depressed.
Luckily for me, I had a few guardian angels at the time, friends I had met online in a support group. We had been online friends for about 5 years at that point, and we’d seen each other through marriages, divorces, new births, and terrible losses. As a surprise, they took up a collection and sent us gift cards to the toy store and to Target so that we could purchase things our boys had asked Santa Claus for. They may not have been able to get everything on their own wish lists, but they helped us. At first I protested, “This is too much! Let me share some of it back with you guys!” But one of the group members, a woman I often referred to as my surrogate mother, insisted. “This was a gift from your friends. Take it with love, and pay it forward when you are able.”
I was overcome with emotions. I had never been one to ask for help, and I felt humiliated that we couldn’t “make it” on our own. I was ecstatic that my boys wouldn’t be let down by Santa. I was humbled by my friend’s generosity and love. I remember very clearly walking down the aisles of that toy store, carefully counting the amounts for each thing we were purchasing, feeling a mix of emotions: excitement, sadness, pity for myself, pride in my friends, humility, and love. Most of all, that Christmas, I remember realizing that I had been feeling sorry for myself for way too long. I felt justified in that pity, after all, I had a laundry list of things that I could point to that had been awful.
But at the same time, I had been overlooking all of the things I could be grateful for. I had recently completed treatments for cancer, but I had made it. I had two beautiful boys. We still had a roof over our heads, and food to eat. It shook me out of my slump and I was determined to make the moves needed to create a healthy life for myself and my family. We all came together, and things quickly turned around.
A Fresh Start
The next Christmas, I celebrated with my husband, two boys, and newborn baby girl—and completely able to provide for all three. We began that year with a Christmas tradition that we have continued ever since: we each provided at least one gift for a child who wouldn’t otherwise get a Christmas present (through information obtained through the elementary school counselor). Over the years, that has grown exponentially and some years our bosses, co-workers, and friends have also pitched in. It has become one of our favorite things about the holidays and, as a mom, I can’t help feeling love and pride at seeing my children continue the legacy of love and support that began so many years ago with my friends.
Studies show that volunteering your time or talents in service of others can help increase your own feelings of self-worth and contentment, help you feel more connected with your community and individuals, reduce loneliness, and help you feel a sense of purpose. Many times in recovery, everything is necessarily self-focused in order to do the hard work of creating a healthier you. But as you begin to move through recovery, it is often helpful to look outward at the community around you and see where you can contribute, whether it is through volunteering your time cleaning up highways or parks, helping set up community events, working with animal shelters, or materially through goods like school supplies, cards, or other items.
Maybe, like me, you’ve had some low times in your life. Maybe you’re ready to move beyond those lows and begin creating the healthy life you’ve always wanted. If you’re ready to begin, give us a call at 800.556.2966 to learn about our mindfulness-based addiction program. We also offer educational groups for those struggling with depression, anxiety, or just hard times in their life. You don’t have to wait for the holidays or the new year to start living the life you want!