With Christmas just a few days away, I wanted to share a post I wrote a few years ago about staying sober during the Holidays and what’s worked for me over the past 17 years – and still does to this day. The Holidays are a trigger for a lot of folks, as well as depressing for a good portion of us alcoholics; so we need to be on guard this time of the year more than ever. I hope these suggestions will help guide you through your first sober Christmas or your 13th, whichever it is – help is always available to you – just ask!
5 ways to stay sober during the Holidays!
I was thinking this morning about how grateful I am that this isn’t my first sober Christmas. This came to me last evening as I was listening to a couple women share about how nervous they are being around family (who drink) and traveling home for the Holidays – – to experience their first sober Christmas. It is a nerve wracking experience and one that I remember quite well; but now having been sober for over a decade, the Holidays don’t affect me like they once did, however, not too long ago I remember being very stressed and uncomfortable during my early years of sobriety and how I would be able to manage the Holiday Cheer, without partaking in the alcohol Cheer portion.
I’ve learned to change up my routines during the Holidays, and it’s really not much different than what I do daily to maintain my sobriety and sense of serenity – it all depends on people, places and things for me. As long as I safeguard my habits and who I’m going to be with and where I am, I can manage my sobriety and feel good in doing so.
I wanted to share 5 things I like to do that help me prepare for upcoming parties and gatherings, whether it be at the Office holiday party, your kids’ school gathering, an event with the in-laws or just in your own home at a festive Holiday dinner; these things have proven to be life-savers for me.
- Bookending the event using phone therapy
During my recovery I’ve met a lot of women and they’ve been a huge support to me during my sobriety. It was difficult at first picking up the 100 pound phone, but the more I did it, the easier it became. If I’m going through something that is making me anxious or if I’m projecting how something might be, I pick up the phone and call either my sponsor or another supportive friend in the program. After I’ve had my few minutes of venting and sharing about what’s going on with me, I can then ask them about their day and get out of myself for a few minutes. It’s kind of like a mini meeting. I usually talk to at least two women per day about what’s going on with me and vice versa, and it has been, and continues to be, a life saver for me. A few years ago I wanted to drink. I was having a very bad time in my life and I just said, “F*&K this noise – I wanna drink”. I called my sober bestie told her how I was doing and she dropped everything and came right over and took me out for coffee. I didn’t drink that day. The colossal problem I had at the time took care of itself and I didn’t need to drink over it – because I called someone.
I came to my first AA meeting to get a court card signed for my 2nd DUI. I didn’t go there because I wanted to. However, I kept coming back and very early on in my recovery I liked going to meetings. They spoke my language. They understood me and they didn’t make me feel like I didn’t belong. I found my tribe in AA. My closest friends and confidantes are all in AA. I met my husband at an AA meeting (not sure I would recommend that – but that’s a whole other conversation). In moving around a lot in sobriety I’ve been able to walk into any meeting in any part of the country and feel “at home” as we like to say. It’s an integral and sustaining part of my recovery and I’m forever grateful to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. A lot of AA clubhouses have marathon meetings during the Holidays, so be sure to check your local meeting guides to see where those may be.
- Driving myself and having an exit strategy
This has proven to be such a life boat for me as there have been times when I’ve been stuck at some function or party and didn’t have a way to leave. It was uncomfortable as the person I was with drinking and having a grand ole time. Not me. After an hour or so at most functions where drinking is involved, I’m usually ready to leave. I’ve made my appearance, done my social rounds and connected with those I needed to connect with. As soon as I start hearing someone else’s story for a second time or I see their eyes gloss over I know I’m done and ready to get home in my sanctuary of peace and comfort. I highly recommend driving solo, you’ll be glad you did when you snuggle into bed sober and safe.
- Having my “Mocktail”
This has proven to be one of the most important tools in keeping me comfortable in my own skin, as well as insuring I won’t pick up someone else’s drink. Having my own drink of choice; whether it’s a sparkling water with a lime, a diet coke and lemon or an Arnold Palmer, I always have my own beverage and I always know where it is (usually in my hand). Case in point; in early sobriety I was at a family Christmas gathering and I was drinking sparkling water. Seemed easy enough at the time, and during the early evening as I was helping around in the kitchen, I turned and grabbed my beverage, and took a sip! GASP! It wasn’t my beverage it was someone else’s vodka and tonic. I was freaked out and had to leave the room. As soon as I realized what occurred I ran outside to have a cigarette. This helped in getting the taste out of my mouth as I don’t recommend smoking by any means, but it’s what worked for me at that moment. A piece of gum, a life saver or any edible item would also suffice. I then proceeded to put my drink in another glass, that didn’t look like a highball, something to make sure I know its mine. Having an accidental sip is just that; an accident. Now when I’m at a function, I know where my drink is at all times and I try to make sure I have a differentiator with the glass or add a straw – because god forbid any of the drinkers take an accidental sip of my mocktail, they’d be so confused!
- Being of service to others
Being of service to me is more than just helping make coffee at a meeting or calling a newcomer – it’s being of service to all people that I come into contact with . Whether it’s the grocery clerk or my work colleagues, it’s all about giving back and getting out of myself. A couple years ago I was at a Holiday party with my company and there was going to be a decent amount of drinking involved, and so I was able to offer my services as the designated driver to some. No one asked too many questions and it was a way to give back and not just think of what I could gain from the event, but what I could contribute. I find that when I’m in that type of mindset, I’m not wanting to pick up a drink. And hopefully I can be a help to others and possibly save someone from driving home drunk that evening.
These 5 easy methods are by no means the only way to stay sober and safe this Holiday season, but they sure make it easier for me. The more Holiday’s I go through sober, the easier it becomes. Try to enjoy your first sober Christmas, because the second one is right around the corner!