How to Stay Sober
Family – gotta love ‘em, right? Mom and dad, bickering over the le
ngth of time that the in-laws will stay; belligerently drunk Uncle
Jim, knocking down the wreaths and bows, cursing his father for playing favorites and spilling eggnog and rum all over the rug. Five obnoxious cousins, four high-maintenance aunts, three screaming babies, two awkward ‘family friends’, and a dog eating right off the table. With all of the chaos and confusion, it is sometimes difficult to find a moment to sneak away and meditate. But because being surrounded by such dysfunction for even a couple of days can be so overwhelming, maintaining your spiritual footing throughout the holidays is nothing short of essential.
Family Dysfunction Around the Holiday Season
Of course, family is far from the only seasonal stressor we will be faced with. We will be attending company Christmas parties, ugly sweater events, and what with New Years right around the corner, the festivities are only just beginning. Triggers will be popping up left and right, and all of the financial, familial, and emotional stress of the holidays may tempt us to toast with champagne if our own houses do not remain in order. So how do we stay sober throughout the most wonderful time of the year? First of all, it is important to remember that the ensuing mayhem is only temporary. Once February rolls around you will be entirely in the clear, free from all of the gift-giving and forced festivities for at least another 11 months. Remaining in the moment and remembering that ‘this too shall pass’ is not always the easiest course of action throughout this time of year, however. For this reason, we have compiled a list of certain frequently occurring, sobriety-compromising situations, and presented you with potential courses of action to take that will help protect your recovery and keep you happy, jolly, and free all year round.
Keep Your Sobriety Intact Throughout the Holidays
Scenario #1: Christmas Dinner at the Parent’s House.
Solution: Have an escape plan, keep sober supports on speed dial, and bring a book (maybe a big one). Remember that your sobriety is far more important that helping your frazzled mother cook the ham. If you need to step away and hit a meeting or call up your sponsor – do it. Maybe look up nighttime meetings in the area beforehand, so you know exactly where to go if you start feeling overwhelmed. Bring your Big Book with you, and lock yourself in an upstairs bathroom for a little light reading from time to time. Meditate, pray, meditate, pray. And then pray a little more.
Scenario #2: Company Christmas Party.
Solution: Arrive early, leave early. Like… very early. Like ‘stay for an hour’ early. Yes, okay, so you’ve had a major crush on Jim from Accounting for years, and now seems like the perfect opportunity to finally corner him under the mistletoe. If it’s meant to be it will be regardless, and you should probably avoid mingling with coworkers right in front of Cindy from HR anyways. Get in, enjoy some cream puffs and cheese dip, and get out. If you have to stick around for a ‘white elephant’ gift exchange, keep a wine glass full of cranberry juice on you so nobody obnoxiously asks questions.
Scenario #3: Ugly Sweater Party with Friends.
Solution: Make an appearance and bounce. Or, if you feel at all uncomfortable, just say ‘no’ altogether. Chances are, you have been around your drinking friends while they were drinking many times before, and this event will be no different. Practice setting boundaries and spending your time in more productive and rewarding ways. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or bring a meeting into a treatment center. Find some way to bide your time in a more fulfilling and spiritually-bolstering way.
Scenario #4: You Have No Money, No Friends, and No Family.
Solution: Welcome to early recovery! One thing addiction is good at is stripping us of literally everything we value. Fortunately for you, this too shall pass, and if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing, the coming year will be beyond your wildest dreams. Truly. It might suck right now, and that’s okay – we often need to wade through piles of dense and seemingly unrelenting crap in order to get to the good stuff. Fortunately for you, the Alcathons that most meeting houses hold around-the-clock during the holidays are open to absolutely everyone. Look into volunteering at a nearby Alcathon, and spend your holidays helping others (or simply attending meetings). One month of major crappiness is absolutely worth a lifetime of immense and unbelievable happiness, beauty, and freedom. You can do it.
Scenario #5: New Year’s Eve.
Solution: Spend New Year’s Eve with sober friends, and do something cool, fun, and not-in-a-bar. Take a nighttime hike and pack some bottles of Martinelli’s – toast to the New Year with a couple of close friends under the stars. Watch the ball drop in your living room with a close friend or two, and discuss resolutions while eating popcorn and pizza. As addicts and alcoholics, we often feel that if we aren’t “out” we’re missing out on some marvelous and life-changing action. All we’re missing by not going to the club on New Year’s is a champagne vomit-stained outfit, a deeply regrettable drunken hook-up, and a really unfortunate January 1st. Waking up without a hangover on the first day of the year is worth everything.
Staying sober through the holiday season can seem, at times, impossible. But keep the word ‘temporality’ in mind – unless you’re dreaming of a white chip Christmas, staying spiritually in-tune and surrounding yourself with support will be essential. And remember – this is the season of giving. The best gift you can possibly give yourself and your loved ones is the gift of dedicated and long-term sobriety.