New Year’s Eve has always been my favorite holiday. It was a great time to start over for me. When I was little I would sit alone and watch the ball drop in Times Square. I was an only child with so many dreams, and one of them was to go to New York one day and see that ball drop for myself.
For a child, I had a serious thirst for redemption. I would sit on the couch on New Year’s Eve and make a mental list of all the things I would do better the following year. That was something I did throughout my life, even as I got older and New Year’s Eve was no longer spent alone on a couch. The process was always the same: I would sit, make a list of all the things that I had done wrong, and then make a plan on how I would do better the next year. A new year was the mega-clean slate.
When I began drinking heavily, I would often go into the bathroom of my favorite bar, which had a mirror right in front of the toilet. It was impossible to avoid looking at myself in that mirror, usually trashed and about to go home with some random guy, and see exactly who I was. I had no choice but to look at what I was doing to myself. I was all alone, so the only thing I could figure to do was confess my sins out loud and tell myself how I was going to become better.
Every year, as New Year’s approached, I would go in the bathroom and look in that mirror and confess all my sins.
You can only imagine my surprise the first time I walked into a confessional and realized that for most of my pagan life, I had been confessing out of the sheer need to purge those things from my soul and my long-unrealized thirst for redemption. In the confessional, I could quit pretending that I was talking to myself and actually talk to God and ask him to help me. I also could hear the words of absolution — so much better than walking back into the smoky bar and ordering another conscience-numbing shot of tequila. The best part, though, was that I did not have to wait until I was drunk to confess my sins. I could walk in there completely sober, completely at the mercy of God, and walk out completely forgiven.
After my conversion, I married my childhood sweetheart in the Catholic Church. One year, he and I booked a trip to New York City for New Year’s Eve. We made our way to Times Square but didn’t go into the huge crowd; instead, we hung out in a bar that was close to a spot where we could watch the ball drop at midnight. It worked out better than I could have ever dreamed. When it was two minutes to midnight, we walked out into the street and — surrounded by New York City’s finest — we counted down the new year in Times Square. As “Auld Lang Syne” played in the street we hugged half a dozen New York police officers. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. I was not sitting in a smoky bar all alone and drunk, wishing I was in Times Square. I was in Times Square with the love of my life, and redemption had come. God is good.
For the last five years I have had moments like that. Today, I recall that one, and tomorrow I’ll remember another, because for the last five years of my life, God has done amazing things for me.
I still love New Year’s Eve. I still see it as a clean-slate time, bringing a whole new year full of hope and opportunities. The year 2015 has been good to me and my family; I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings. No matter what comes, God is always with us, and the confessional is always open when I fail him.
Leticia Ochoa Adams is a radio host at Breadbox Media and a regular contributor to the Jennifer Fulwiler Show at the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM. She writes at http://www.letiadams.com and Catholic Stand.com and has a blog at patheos.com.