Giving – Grapevine Article December 1990 by Mary J.

I was feeling sad, frustrated, and sorry for myself, because this year, like so many before, I didn’t have the money to buy gifts. I didn’t even have any creative energy to make up for it. I was fighting a sense of failure and despair that I would ever “get on with my life.” I was also overwhelmed at how to give back to the people who had given so much to me. At times I placated myself with the thought that I would “do something special after Christmas.”

But there were a few people I felt a need to give some kind of token, however small. My sister was one. My neighbor, who consistently had rescued me throughout the year, was another, as was a friend who had taught me about fighting back, and whose brother had recently died.

So I took my little pile of money and headed for the shops. There was so much that was wonderful, but just a few dollars more than I could spare. I was aware this year of knowing just the right gift for people. I even allowed myself to splurge on the “perfect” gift for one dear friend not on the list and in the end had to return it because I didn’t have enough money. But in the end I found beautiful gifts for very little: a wonderful glass star for my sister, a glass icicle for my neighbor, and a Santa ornament for my friend, who had recently decided to collect Santa. That night I felt pleased and safe, even though I had literally spent my last dollar.

A cold snap was on, so when I went to work I left my dog in the house, as I had for the past two evenings without mishap. But when I returned home, I found that my dog had hopped the barricade I had set up and had gotten into the living room. All the gifts had been torn apart and strewn in little pieces around the room.

As I picked up the pieces, I wasn’t angry or sad. I was only aware that it was 12:30 in the morning, it was now officially Christmas Eve. I had literally nothing left to give. And I thought of how I had truly wanted to give to these people. Getting a little more honest, I realized also that there is a part of me that thinks in terms of a balance sheet–that the scales have to stay even. If someone gives to me, I have to give back. Some of it is pride; some of it is fear of abandonment; I don’t even know where some of it comes from. But there is a need in me to keep things equal.

Until recently I could fall back on the excuse of my traumatic divorce in order to do all of the receiving I had to do, with so little to give back. This day I had no such alibi to hide under. I was left with only the Steps and Traditions that I have tried so hard to absorb over my years of sobriety. I suddenly understood the Twelfth Step, deep inside. All of these people had given to me freely, just to give. It was hard for me to accept that I had been given so much, that people would do that for me. Now, I understood that all that is asked of me is simply to give of myself. (And that is also the best gift that I can give to myself.)

This was very difficult, because my fear is that I am not enough. But to continue to accept on faith all that I have based my life of sobriety on, meant that I had to also accept on faith that I am enough. I felt as though I was stripped of all life’s trappings: a good job, a nice home, cute kids, great clothes–all those things that validate a person. With absolutely nothing, I still had to say, I am enough. Joy slowly mixed with the fear and I felt a sense of gratitude at being another step closer to God.

So, my story is the only gift I have to give today. And I know that for you too, that is enough.

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