By: Diane Cameron

Now, just days before Christmas, I’ll be heading out to start my holiday shopping. For a long time, I was ashamed to admit that I began holiday preparations so late, but the truth is this is my favorite part of the holidays.

No, it’s not about procrastination. I well know the advice about how to make Christmas shopping easier. As we in recovery know, there are some things that don’t get better just by being easier. I’ve read those How to Get Organized books, but I’ve also lived through enough tragedy to know that organizing one’s life is an illusion.

I grant you that there may be a moment that last week when I’ll envy those who had their gifts wrapped in July. But that’s kind of like having a good report from the dentist, isn’t it? All very wholesome but where’s the fun?

I also hate that suggestion that you should have a stash of generic gifts in your closet just in case someone surprises you with a gift and you were not prepared to reciprocate. Think how mean that is. Someone is just about to feel big and generous by surprising you with a gift and you cut them off with a retaliatory box of bath salts. That’s one-upmanship.

Those of us who begin our shopping after the 15th may be enjoying the real spirit of Christmas. We get to watch humanity test itself and see kindness and patience and grace enacted –or honored in the breach–in toy stores and next to the stack of 30% off cashmere turtlenecks.

We also know that the worst characters to run into at the mall now are the, “I was done in August” people who just learned they need one more thing and have to come out and play with the rest of us. They are usually the ones sighing heavily and making lots of eye contact wanting others to share their misery.

No, we who shop late are engaging in a holiday ritual that is much closer to the original: It’s cold out, traffic is as slow as a lane of donkeys, and we get to watch the young family with a triple stroller searching the mall for a changing area. It makes you want to drop to your knees and pray.

Yes, shopping in July might make Christmas nice and tidy. But real life is anything but that. Consider the story of the Holy Family: There was no advance planning; Mary was days away from delivery when they went on a road trip, and she had to give birth in a barn. Not tidy and neat.

The crux of that first Christmas story is that sometimes in the midst of mess and confusion and fear, angels show up and miracles happen.

But in order to experience that you have to be willing to join the fray and put yourself where humans happen to be. Relationships with people are like casinos: You must be present to win.

So, I’m getting ready to shop where humanity is. I’m heading out to the mall, bundled up, grinning and bracing myself for encounters with my fellow man. I’ll be trekking in from the outer loop of the parking lot, looking for a few gifts, and the real spirit of Christmas.


Women new to recovery find much support; sponsorship and fellowship are new, and everything about the recovery life seems fresh and exciting. With time, recovering women face challenges from complacency to burnout, menopause to overweight. Author Diane Cameron has faced these issues, and shares her experience, strength, and hope to teach readers how to handle the unexpected trials of double-digit recovery.

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