William C. Moyers


 

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Beyond Addiction by William C. Moyers

Improving our understanding of alcohol and drug addiction


A Christmas Carol

It is impossible not to soak up the spirit of the season while watching a performance of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

The kids and I have seen it a half-dozen times in the past decade -- not exactly an annual tradition, but a touchstone for consistently fine family memories. This year, my partner, Nell, and her 6-year-old son saw it with us. I think he enjoyed the play, too, because he sat practically still in his seat until the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come appeared, two hours into the show. In the smallest of ways, I've planted the seed of the Dickens spirit in another generation beyond my own teenagers. Maybe he'll take his own family to see the 200th anniversary production in 2043, when he's 39.

Why not? "A Christmas Carol" is everybody's story, a timeless tale of misappropriated priorities, skewed values, regret, grief and, most of all, redemption, framed by the one season that is the epitome of family for millions of people past, present and future. No YouTube video or television reality show or computer game ever will trump Ebenezer Scrooge's journey through his own life. Scrooge evolves from his own worst enemy to his own best friend, and who doesn't want to end up like that, even if it takes a couple of ghosts to get into action?

Maybe that's why I felt a bit depressed after the rousing finale of song and dance and good cheer. The day after, as I sit in front of the computer screen putting words in this space, I'm bummed out. And I can't pin it on the post-holiday blues because Christmas is still three days away. I hate to admit it. But I really aspire to be like Scrooge.

Mind you, not as he was. I've been there and done that already. As I roll further into "middle age" (and for the record, 51 may be the new 71, but I still have lived more than a half-century, and that's a long time), I gain clarity around all the decades I burned chasing the high of my own expectations around money, love, career and drugs and alcohol. Today I'm rich in money woes. I'm not sure how to love the people who love me. My job hasn't followed a road well- or less traveled, but instead taken a footpath I never charted. And because I'm sober, there's no place or space for mood- and mind-altering substances. Like Scrooge, I'm not the man I used to be.

But Scrooge figured it all out in one restless night. I've been at it for the past 16 years, and when I wake up on Christmas morning this year, I'm not very confident I'll possess his enthusiastically unselfish spirit to give away moneybags to strangers on the street or feed a disadvantaged family with a hot turkey dinner, much less sing and dance and skip my way through the joy of the rest of my life. Heck, I can't even cook a turkey. And I'm supposed to be living a day at a time, not looking with eager anticipation to tomorrow.

Don't get me wrong; this season I'm no "bah, humbug." I am a fortunate man. It's just that I need to be honest. Life's struggles don't take a holiday.

December 25, 2010

 
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