Nine years ago was my first Christmas as a divorced person. I had spent Christmas eve with my friend and her extended family. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, in-laws, children everywhere. Music, laughter, food — miles of food (they were Italian). Someone handed me my first Cosmopolitan as I maneuvered my way through a game of pool. It was one of the very few times I had ventured out in a social setting since being separated eight months before. In that time I had become something of a recluse; closing off anything that had to do with my married life, and dealing with the repercussions of trying to keep an alcoholic-turned-self-righteous-recovering-alcoholic ex-husband with a certain sense of entitlement at bay while attending to my own 12-step CoDA program. Keeping my sanity and balance took all the energy I had; there was little left for much else.
So it surprised not just my friend but also myself when I actually drove the 15 or so miles in the rain to spend Christmas eve with a houseful of strangers. It was loud, it was chaotic. It was wonderful. Begrudgingly, near midnight, I hugged everyone, kissed children, and came home. My neighborhood was quiet. There was a light mist falling. I took my dog for a walk. Christmas lights reflected off the wet street. When I came back to the house, I turned off all the lights and sat in the living room with just the Christmas tree glowing in the dark. I opened my one present, from my sister. It had been two weeks to the day that my divorce had become final. I was safe and warm in my own house. I was totally alone, and at peace. I could finally breathe. It was the happiest Christmas I’d ever had.