I don’t know what it is about drinking and the holidays, but it’s like the flood gates are thrown open and people start guzzling bottles of champagne and wine like the apocalypse is coming. I can barely scroll through my social media feeds without seeing an alcohol related post. I get it people. You’re stressed out, you’re still pissed off about the election, you’ve had it with your boss, your kids are driving you crazy – you NEED a drink! Well, for those of us who have “been there, done that” we know that getting sloshed will never be the answer and we will do whatever we can to protect ourselves from the onslaught of “if I only had a drink” type of mentality being thrown in our faces. Yes, this is what people in sobriety have to deal with ALL OF THE TIME. Like it or not, we live in a society that is obsessed with drugs and alcohol.
Despite having been sober for awhile now, the holidays still cause me anxiety. It’s a given that I’ll be in situations where I’ll be around more drinking than I normally would. And, it’s usually a given that someone will say something that’s disrespectful or ignorant in regards to my sobriety. While I’ve come to expect these things, I still take measures to protect my sobriety, including:
- Just Say “No.”: I don’t mean, “just say no” to drinking (although that helps), but, before going, really think about the situations you put yourself in. Will there be heavy drinking? Will there be other sober people? Will I have supportive people around me? Can I leave easily if need be? If you don’t think it’s a good fit, politely decline and save yourself the trouble and temptations. It’s not worth it.
- Set Boundaries: Your sobriety should be your number one concern. If I want to attend a function where I know there’s going to be drinking, I stay for a certain amount of time and then leave. Typically, I don’t host gatherings at my home during the holidays because I don’t want the expectation of providing a full bar and I don’t want that kind of drinking taking place in my home. You have to be willing to stand up for yourself and your sobriety, despite what others want or expect of you.
- Don’t Defend Your Sobriety: The first Christmas I was sober I actually had a relative make a dig at my sobriety. I was drinking non-alcoholic wine because I wanted something “special” to drink and she said something along the lines of, “If I couldn’t drink, I wouldn’t even bother with that stuff.” I was so caught off guard I didn’t know what to say, however, I think my husband would have liked to thump her across the head. Sure, I could’ve told her how I hoped she would never have to experience what I did to get to that point in my life or I could’ve called her out on her own perceived drinking problem, but I didn’t because what I learned in recovery is that it doesn’t matter what others say, do or think. As long as I’m taking care of my side of the street, it’s all good.
- Trust Your Gut Instinct: Honestly, this is what I listen to most. If something doesn’t feel right, if you’re questioning whether or not you should do something or go somewhere, don’t do it. There’s a reason you’re feeling that way and usually that reason is for the best.
- Remember, We’re All God’s Children: Okay, so this one’s a little different, but it helps! I once had a sponsor who, whenever I would be complaining about someone, would kindly remind me that “We’re all God’s children.” So, now, when I’m driving in crazy holiday traffic or in line with grumpy holiday shoppers, I just remind myself to be patient, be kind and “We’re all God’s children” – even that grumpy lady!
No matter how long we’ve been sober, I think it’s always good to go over some of these reminders during the holidays. If you’re new to this sober thing, don’t be afraid to reach out to other sober people along the way. We’ve been there and we know what it’s like to feel isolated and alone. But, one thing we’ll all tell you, is that you’re not alone! There’s millions of us out there who don’t drink and don’t HAVE to drink during the holidays. We’ve made the decision to have sober and therefore memorable holidays, ones we can be active participants in, not only bystanders. Just another gift of sobriety.
I’d love to hear other ways you stay sober during the holidays!