~Have a Holly Jolly Christmas
Recovery is different during the holidays.
During the rest of the calendar year, it is a lot easier for recovering alcoholics to keep themselves only by other sober people. In their everyday lives, it’s possible to set boundaries –
- Where They Go – they avoid bars, clubs, and parties fueled by alcohol.
- Who They are With – they stop associating with other alcoholics who are not in recovery.
- How Much Time They Spend in Drinking Situations–when it becomes impossible to avoid a situation, they can usually make their hasty-yet-polite exit rather quickly
Everything changes during the five-week between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Eve. Attendance at office parties and family get-togethers is usually mandatory. Once there, they will be faced with coworkers and family members who like to drink and who do aren’t afraid to show it. These gatherings can last hours.
So what can a person determined to stay sober do?
Ordinary, everyday sobriety already takes vigilance. During the holidays, safeguarding your recovery means actually making a plan.
Think of this plan as a “survival guide” – literally, a roadmap that will help you safely negotiate the minefields found in dangerous social situations that include drinking. Some practical strategies might include:
- Always have an immediate plan of escape– Come in your own vehicle. If you find yourself feeling too uncomfortable, you can leave.
- Have another sober friend in recovery “standing by” – Have someone who really understands what you are going through “on call”. If you’re feeling tempted, need help, or just need to talk, simply pick up the phone.
- Use your support system– There are probably people at the party who know your personal situation. Partner up with someone you can trust to help keep you from making bad decisions.
- Spend time practicing the standard response you will give when people who are unaware of your recovery ask why you are drinking – It’s your business – and your business alone – why you are abstaining, but if you feel self-conscious, it can be a good idea to have a response at the ready – “I gave it up”, “I don’t drink”, or “I’m the designated driver” are all good suggestions.
- Take good care of yourself – Make sure that you have been getting plenty of exercise, eating properly, and getting enough rest. Arriving too hungry or too tired can result in errors in judgment.
- Be choosy about which holiday events you attend – Don’t go to a get-together simply because you feel pressured to say “yes” to every invitation. There are some parties where your attendance is not a good idea.
- Attend holiday events and activities that don’t involve drinking in any way– You can celebrate your own way with other sober holiday-themed activities – go ice skating, to a movie, or give back by volunteering.
- Keep loneliness at bay by keeping yourself busy – Don’t get too lonely, which can lead you to accept invitations that you might otherwise pass on. Volunteer, donate your time at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, help out at your church, pick up extra shifts or projects at work, or hang out with sober friends. Positive activities trump negative feelings.
- Avoid dishes that might contain alcohol – Even miniscule amounts of alcohol can potentially trigger dangerous cravings, so watch out for holiday dishes like rum cake or eggnog.
- Fill your own drinks – If you get (or bring) your own drink, there is no need to politely accept an alcoholic beverage that someone else innocently brought you.
- Keep your cup with you–Fill your cup with your favorite non-alcoholic beverage, and carry it around with you. It’s not very likely that anyone is going to ask what you have in your cup.
- Go to extra 12-Step or recovery support meetings –The fellowship found among other alcoholics in recovery can be a real life-saver during the holiday season. Being around others is the perfect cure for loneliness, and you can all draw strength from your shared experiences.
- Think about going to AA-sponsored celebration celebrations –Most AA groups will schedule extra meetings during the holiday season. Consider going to an “alcathon” – a full 24 hours of meetings, food, and social interaction – held on Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
- Most importantly – ALWAYS put your sobriety first and foremost – If you find yourself in a situation that jeopardizes your recovery – LEAVE. Your serenity, your sanity, and your sobriety are far more important than any embarrassment or hurt feelings.
Regardless of your own personal situation, the holidays do not have to be lonely or overly stressful. You can create your own joy, and with a little planning and imagination, you can enjoy the festivities all around you without jeopardizing your Lasting Recovery.