Most of us look forward to the holidays. There’s the possibility of time off from work, a chance to catch up with friends and family and the opportunity to kick back with one or two holiday cocktails.
Unless you’re sober, like I am.
Don’t get me wrong; I still look forward to the holidays, but it’s hard. Not drinking in general is hard, but this time of year is even more difficult.
It’s gotten easier as the years have passed, however, and since I quit drinking, I’ve learned some ways to make the holidays more fulfilling without filling myself with booze.
For starters, I plan ahead. I visualize myself at the Christmas party before it happens. I anticipate possible conversations and what I might say in response to someone’s question about why I’m not drinking.
I have no problem talking about my alcoholism; although, sometimes, I think I make other people uncomfortable when they know about it.
They think I’m judging them for their own drinking, though I’m definitely not. So, you can basically give any answer to this question you want.
Something else I do to help maintain my sobriety, and to not dwell on the negative when it feels like everyone else is soaring after that third cup of eggnog, is to practice mindful thinking.
I remind myself that even though it might feel like it, I am not alone. There are people in recovery everywhere, and if I need to, I can talk to them. I recite the Serenity Prayer in my head.
I have to work at it, but I also focus on the reasons I quit and the knowledge of what would happen if I started again. I think about how much hangovers sucked.
I focus on the reality that I’ll remember everything that happens now; I won’t need other people to fill me in on what I did or said, and I won’t feel the guilt of not remembering.
I savor all the sensory experiences I am having without alcohol. I can appreciate the smiles of my children and the embrace of my husband so much more now because the cloudy haze of alcohol isn’t overpowering the experiences I’m having with the people around me.
These might sound like simple tips to incorporate, but they have helped me. There are also things other people can do that help me, things you can do to help someone you might know who is in recovery.
When I am in a social situation, I like to blend in. If you notice someone’s not drinking, don’t ask why in front of a group of people. If your curiosity is absolutely killing you, ask when no one else is around.
While I’m fine and dandy discussing my addiction, not everyone is. And, in a party situation, I’d rather just take the focus off the fact that I’m not drinking and I might be the only one not drinking.
Something else you can do to help a friend in recovery during the holiday season is to understand if he or she opts out of some gatherings or bows out early.
It’s often best for some people early in recovery to avoid alcohol-fueled situations altogether. And, right now, a recovering alcoholic needs your support, not your guilt trip because of the decision to skip the annual holiday party where she got drunk and made rounds giving out countless lap dances the year before.
While getting through the holidays sober can be one of the most difficult feats a recovering alcoholic can undertake, it is completely possible.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and if you spend time with someone in recovery this holiday season, do your best to offer support. It’s so rewarding to discover the strength that lies within you.
I’m living proof.