Christmas Eve in Rehab

A few good years ago, on my old MySpace blog, as Christmas was approaching, I was searching for something to write about it.  I ended up blogging this small account of the Christmas Eve I spent in rehab.  Looking back on it now, as a piece of writing, it certainly has it’s flaws, but I’ve decided to present it again without changing anything at all.  Rather than continue trying to come up with some new Christmas-themed blog every year, I’ve decided to begin a tradition of posting this every year (kinda like it’s a Peanuts special), warts and all.  Thanks for reading.

I have had the somewhat unique experience of spending a Christmas in rehab.  This Christmas was my fourth since then, and hopefully I’ll never let a Christmas go by that I don’t remember that day and–more intensely–the night before.

Christmas Eve in rehab.

It was a more relaxed day for us.  We didn’t have to be at quite as many group sessions.  We had more smoke breaks, more leisure time.  Most of us had been together for a few weeks by then, so there was a good ‘family’ feeling.  It was actually a very nice day, although it did make you realize there was an outside world.  One can’t help but picture their family, at home, watching The Grinch, burning apple-scented candles.  In the corners of your mind, you dare to hope they are wondering what you are doing, too.  And that they still love you.  (They do.)

Late in the afternoon, just as the light was dying and the gloaming light took over the world, snow began to fall.  It was going to be a white Christmas, and here we were, sealed away, smoking in our enclosed courtyard, catching errant snowflakes whose majesty had been ruined by accidentally falling into a rehab courtyard.

We were told to gather in the ‘Big Room’(this is the main gathering room) at 8pm.  We did so.  Once we are all present (about 30 of us) Bob comes in.  Bob was a counselor and lecturer, and probably one major reason why I am alive today.  Most everyone loved Bob.  Some people didn’t love Bob, cause Bob didn’t let you bullshit him, or anyone else.  Bullshit kills sobriety.  Bob taught me that.

Bob gathered us together and ushered us down the halls, without telling us where we were going.  We ended up going into the pool room.  Yes, my rehab had an indoor pool (it doesn’t anymore.  Nowadays it’s just another fucking room.) in a room with a glass ceiling, much like a greenhouse.  All the lights were out, and there was soft, relaxing music playing in the background (what I suppose is called ‘Meditation Music’); I never could tell where they had that music coming from.

The room was so serene.  You could hear the snow landing and immediately melting on the glass roof, and even with the lights out, the pool reflected ambient light, just a little tiny bit, but enough to see where you were stepping.  The music made it the most inviting, relaxing room I’ve ever been in.  I want to spend every Christmas eve in that room.

As we filed in, one of the interns handed us each an orange glow stick…you know, those things that you shake, then crack, and they glow with an eerie iridescent light of various colors.  Well, all of our glow sticks were orange and hadn’t been cracked yet.  They weren’t glowing.

Bob instructed us to gather around the edge of the pool, and attempt to space ourselves evenly all the way around.  It took us a few minutes, as there were thirty of us, but eventually we were there, in the dark, entirely surrounding the pool.

Bob talked for a few minutes about Christmas, and recovery in general—stuff I can’t specifically remember anymore.  But then he started talking about Faith.  Not necessarily Christian Faith…just.  plain. faith. Faith—in anything—Bob said, was the only way to start properly on the road to recovery.  And if you didn’t have any at all—if you were starting from a position of no Faith at all—all that you really needed was just a little spark, a tiny, almost invisible spark of Faith, and then you could blow on it, and fan it, and protect it and nurture it until it was a roaring, unstoppable flame.

But most important, Bob said, was to surround yourself with others who had sparks or flames, and together, your flames could grow high, strong, everlasting: a testament to a Power higher than ourselves who could keep us collectively sober and alive.

“Crack your glow sticks,” Bob said.

We did.  Suddenly surrounding the pool there were thirty orange lights, glowing in the darkness.  It was a neat sight, but the room remained largely dark.

“These are your sparks of Faith,” Bob said.  “But still, each spark is alone.  You see how you still cannot see each other’s faces, from across the pool?  A spark of Faith has difficulty growing on it’s own.  Now, throw them in the pool.”

We looked around, hesitantly.  After a few seconds, someone threw their glow stick in the pool.  Just the single glow stick seemed to light the whole pool up with an orange, fire-like glow.  A bright orb of light followed it to the bottom of the deep end.

Immediately afterwards, twenty-nine other glow sticks flew through the air, an amazing sight that looked somewhat like anti-aircraft fire, or a brief plague of Lightning Bugs.

The room became aglow.  The pool lit up like a miniature sun.  Everyone’s faces, the tears already starting, were clear as day.  The room was orange now, and still you heard the snowflakes melting on the roof, the quiet music coming from nowhere, the merest hint of the sound of happy lapping water.

“Faith burns brighter in numbers.  Stick together, help each other, and fan each other’s flames,” Bob said, himself on the verge of tears.  “Now let’s clasp hands.”

We formed a tight circle around the pool, staring at the amazing glowing water, and on that Christmas Eve, us thirty recited the Serenity Prayer together, to whatever we happened to think of as God, to whatever being there could be that would allow such a perfect moment to occur in this world of folly and disaster.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

We retrieved our ‘sparks’ from the pool, and each kept one.  Mine still sits on my entertainment center, beside a Beanie Baby and my stereo.

24 Responses to “Christmas Eve in Rehab”

  1. I still tear up every time I read this. Merry Chtistmas my wonderful son. I will miss you very much and wish you could be here.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Merry Christmas to you too, Daddio. I will and already do miss you very much! I’ll be thinking of you all on the big day!

  2. What dad said. Love this story.

  3. Beautiful. I spent New Years in a rehab/mental ward, but it wasn’t this cool. How wonderful that they could help you while also making Christmas special.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      I really did hit the jackpot with thatv rehab (both times I was there, haha!)…I mean, it was rehab and it had it’s horrible aspects, but it also had some great parts. I never even address the amazing Christmas feast they gave us!

  4. Every year, this story surprises me. Thank you, thank you.

  5. Awe, definitely my favorite Peanuts special year after year. Proud of your accomplishments! I remember reading this before and thinking how it would quite possibly make you famous one day. This is a perfect example of how the true meaning of Christmas shines a light into your heart.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Why thank you dear. I don’t think I’m getting famous for this any time soon but it’s a neat thoguht. :)

  6. This blows Peanuts out of the water. I’m crying at work! I love this story!

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Oh I don’t know, Kiwi…I mean, Peanuts is pretty damn good!!! :)

      • Ok, I know I’m going to take heat for this, but I disagree. I never really cared for the Peanuts specials. Regardless, this story is moving. Kudos, Noodle.

        • sethdellinger Says:

          haha yes, consider this the heat! I love me some Peanuts specials!! But I like you liking my blog entry even more than I like Peanuts specials. :)

  7. i would to pass this on to scott but don’t know how

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Well you can always do it the low-tech way and write down the website address you see at the top of your screen and then type it in a message to him. If you want I can tell you a step-by-step way of how to ‘link’ him here in a high tech way. :)

  8. Such imagery; you and the others are so visible in my mind. I am going to make this a tradition to read it on Christmas Eve. Man, I love you, Sether.

  9. Thank you! This is the light of Christmas shining in everyone’s hearts. You brought the magic of the season into my day!

  10. What a blessing that you had this in your life. What a blessing to me that I met you and I can share in this amazing story. Thank you.

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