The holiday season is upon us and although it ’tis the season to be merry, it can also be quite concerning for alcoholics. At least it was for me when I was newly sober. There is no easy way through the holidays or recovery. I mean, staying sober is hard enough when there isn’t an overindulgence of Christmas parties, family gatherings, and Holiday Happy Hours.
My first year sober, the memories of past Christmases and New Year’s celebrations came creeping in.
I found myself resenting recovery. Watching my friends and family enjoy their cocktails, “responsibly”, sent me into a rage. What the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t drink like a normal person? All I could think about was how boring the rest of my life was going to be because I couldn’t get my shit together.
I knew early on in my recovery that it was important for me to have a plan, a touchstone to keep me focused on staying sober, and not on all the fun I thought I would be missing. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my husband or family about how I was feeling. I mean, how could I? They were the “responsible” drinkers I mentioned, who were still considerably intolerant of my mere presence. So it was nice to have a sponsor to talk to. Someone who had been where I was, and felt all the same resentments and frustrations I was feeling. I found the more I stayed connected to sober people, places and things, the less tempted I was to drink.
That year I started my own set of guidelines for the holiday season.
I call them my “survival tactics.” Little things I can do to help me cope and release the aggravation that sometimes accompanies recovery.
My holiday, “How To Stay Sober Guide”, takes me right back to the basics every year. The first thing I do with the start of the holiday season is up my meetings. I make an exaggerated effort to stay connected to my support system as much as possible. Simple enough right?
Then, I always find something else to occupy a good bit of my time. For example, my two older children and I joined a community theatre two years ago. So, each holiday season I am busy, busy, busy rehearsing and preparing for our production of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. It is a wonderful distraction and great way to spend time with my kids.
I am also careful how I plan outings. If I know that a certain restaurant is frequented by my old drinking buddies, I don’t go there. Who needs the reminder? My husband and I take day trips skiing or visiting friends. We find new places to dine and spend quality time together. After all, this is a whole new relationship.
Why on Earth would I ever want to go back to the places I spent my time drinking instead of living in?
The holiday season is intended to fill all of us with a sense of togetherness and compassion. Unfortunately, the merriment that surrounds this festive season can also put us at risk of a relapse whether we are ten days sober or ten years sober. I do my best to ensure my sobriety as best I can, and with each passing year it’s gotten easier. That’s not to say that I don’t have my moments self-doubtubt, but after four years sober, I can honestly say that those moments are fewer and further between. I owe that to working my program. My disease never takes a day off, so I know that I can’t either. Regardless of the holiday, season, or event, I am well aware that I am only one drink away from falling right back into my old ways. I enjoy living a sober life far more than I endured a drunken one. So what if that means not having a champagne toast at midnight! I would much rather give up booze for everything else I have working in my life today then give up all of my blessings for a drink.