It’s kind of funny that New Years is the resolution holiday when the greatest rehab story ever told happens a week before during Christmas. If there’s a bad habit you’re trying to break or a good one you’re trying to acquire (and if there’s just one you’re ahead of me) flip the calendar back to the week of December 25 and review a A Christmas Carol, which Charles Dickens wrote in 1843 because he needed the cash.
A Christmas Carol is usually billed as a story of “redemption” which is a lovelier word than rehab but both just mean reclamation of one’s own life. And that’s what resolutions are made of. Scrooge’s addiction is clearly money, addiction here being defined as a fundamentalism about anything, whether it’s booze, sex, religion or “Twilight.” It differs from a passion in that passion – for your work, your partner, for music or anything else –brings satisfaction at the end of the day. You might be consumed by it but in the end it’s not just a hiding place, which is what Scrooge’s counting house becomes.
Then, of course, there’s the intervention and Scrooge’s, while supernatural, still comes from his best friend, Jacob Marley, who corners Scrooge unexpectedly and won’t let him leave the room without hearing what a fuck-up he is and making him agree to treatment, just like on TV. His three therapists are the ghosts which take him through a lot of rehabilitative steps - one who makes him come to terms with emotions he’s been avoiding for about 50 years, one who makes him look at the effect of his behavior on others and one who does the Scared Straight method of showing him how bad things can get if he doesn’t knock it off. At last we get to the redemption stage, the happy ending where the patient recognizes his problems and sets things right. Dickens even foreshadowed the ‘amends’ step, with Scrooge making up to the Crachits for past mistakes. There was never a sequel, which is good – one would hate to think of Scrooge relapsing and ending up back in rehab, like on so many E! True Hollywood stories.
Anyway, if you’re averse to the sterile jargon of the 21st century and find self-improvement more entertaining when it involves ghosts, time travel and Victorian London then keep considering Scrooge a little longer after Christmas. Whatever you’re trying to change might not be an addiction, but there are templates a-plenty to change it –as long as you’re trying you’ve got a head start. And we’re all trying – why do you think there’s so much self-hep media? It’s not because we’re all happy and perfect. So you’re not alone.
So THAT was a heavy Happy New Year message but that’s what happens when you watch nothing but Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Sex Rehab and period movies for several weeks. 2009 has been a manic year for most of us and though we can’t rely on supernatural intervention like Scrooge did, I hope that in 2010 we all get the one thing we need, whether it comes from something outside or from right within ourselves: satisfaction.
Let the countdown begin.