Personally and professionally I know this time of year is tough for many reasons and that many of us (myself included) get through the holidays with a little liquid courage from time to time.
Some of us may be good with a glass every now and again. But when sobriety is something you are working toward, the holiday season is known to get people off track. So how does one do it, you may ask?
If you’ve been following along, you know how I always like to keep it real. So this week we are actually NOT hearing from me.
Instead, my friend Morgan, who has dealt with this in her own life, and has decided to shed some light on the subject with her own experience staying sober during this time of year.
Morgan now works in the addiction and recovery field, helping those in need to get linked up with community resources so they can receive the help and treatment they need.
She is sharing her top 5 tricks to staying sober during the holidays….enjoy!
Are you partying sober for the Holidays?
My response to this question about 1,300 days ago would have been, “Why in the hell would anyone do that?”
The idea of doing anything without alcohol was completely foreign, in fact, it was impossible for about 18 years of my life until I surrendered into a life of sobriety.
Navigating most situations were extremely frightening in early sobriety and I’ve had to learn a few tricks along the way to enjoy the holidays without picking up drink. I’m here to say that there is hope and there can be light at the end of the tunnel.
So, if you are socially awkward like me and happen to be an alcoholic or are tip-toeing in the shallow end of the sobriety pool here are a few tips that have literally saved my life around the holidays.
Most families come with colorful characters and layers of drama that are bound to come out when everyone gets together.
Whether its the mother who plays kitchen police, the arguing uncle picking a fight over political views or the perfect sister who can do no wrong, there is always something that is going to pop its ugly head to the surface.
My favorite thing to do is to expect the expected. Instead of dreading the experience try to find humor in the insanity or practice acceptance for the fact that you can’t change anyone, you can only change your reactions.
I like to be mentally prepared for the holiday adventure I am walking into, sometimes I even make a list of all the people that annoy me and next to each name I ask myself why that person bothers me and in what area of my life does it affect.
I take a good hard look at my part in the situation. I find, most of my upsets are caused by fear and not getting what I want. When I learn to practice acceptance I gain freedom, little situations and other people’s shit no longer disturb my jolly soul.
My experience with getting sober has taught me that when I decided to make a complete change in my life, no one else got the memo that they were supposed to change too.
It’s weird, when I started the people around me seemed to get sicker. It was isolating in the beginning because I came to conclusion that my puzzle piece no longer fit into the picture.
So, I had to redefine it by finding my purpose. I don’t know about you or what is making you want to navigate the holiday season sober but, I’m going to take a wild guess that you may have at one time not been the most supporting member of your tribe.
Perhaps last Christmas you had a few too many vodka sodas that caused you to word vomit your feelings on you family or friends? Maybe you had to leave early due to your drinking or even better, you passed out in an awkward place at the party?
Whatever your experience, the good news is, this year you have the opportunity to do a few things different. When I approach any situation from the position of “what can I contribute to this situation”, it gives me a purpose which ultimately, takes my mind off a drink. I attempt to show up on time or early to help, I clean up as I go and bring a thoughtful gift for the host. I talk to the loaner in the corner and laugh about our inability to socialize like the rest.
I make sure to ask people questions to keep them talking about themselves to avoid the awkward convo about my new found “slow-briety,” even if, I don’t have a true genuine interest, I act as if.
Not the alcoholic kind, silly!! I typically bring or order a soda water and lime, having a drink in my hand provides the comfort that my baby blanket granted me when I was a child.
Think about it, you probably always carried around a glass at the previous parties so, why stop now? Play it cool, most people will never know you are not drinking unless you are open about it.
My biggest fear in the beginning was having to turn down a drink but, if I already have one, people are less likely to offer. Although, I distinctly remember one Thanksgiving when everyone was taking shots of fireball and my family kept insisting I join in.
My escape trick in this situation was using the line, “I can’t drink with my antibiotic” and I poured some flat soda in a shot glass, salute!
Now, I have come across those convincing drinkers that can’t seem to enjoy drinking alone, I do empathize with the fact that those situations can get sticky. Sometimes people can be very overwhelming and demand you drink with everyone, I honestly suggest avoiding those situations in early sobriety.
Plus, I’ve discovered I didn’t really enjoy being around those people and have chosen to just walk away in those instances, they are usually already drunk enough that your actions will go unnoticed.
I like to book-end my holiday parties with what I like to call, an “accountability check-in.”
Talking to someone that is a good sober support before the event and calling them after helps keep me feeling safe with my alcoholic brain.
Although it has been over 3 years since I’ve entertained a cocktail some situations can be stressful, especially dealing with family dynamics so, I like to let someone else know what I am walking into. Speaking with a level headed person prior helps put my mind at ease, slows down my racing thoughts and allows me to remember my purpose.
Knowing I have to make follow up call and report my experience holds me to a new level of accountability, it reduces the fear.
When I find myself completely overwhelmed or just need a quick restart, I politely excuse myself to the restroom. I cannot count how many times I have crouched down onto my knees in a bathroom and prayed for help.
Regardless, of your religious beliefs there is something to the idea of prayer and deep breathing. Allowing myself to say out loud that I need help takes the overwhelming power out of a alcohol craving.
Sometimes my wardrobe or the cleanliness of the restroom does not warrant a complete kneel of surrender, in those moments I take very deep breaths and give myself a little pep talk; I remember why I am at the event and recenter myself back into a position of service.
Living sober can be very daunting in the beginning, everything feels uncomfortable. I remember when I could not even look down the alcoholic beverage isle in the grocery store, I was terrified the wine was going to fly off the shelves and into my arms.
I’m happy to report that never happened and I am finally free from the obsession to drink but, I do know my limits. Understanding where you are at in your recovery journey is more important than applying tips and tricks, learning what feels right and being willing to walk away from unhealthy situations is what will help create longevity in your new lifestyle.
I’m a very social person and I truly thought my social life was going to be over and what I have found is that I actually enjoy myself more today because I create authentic connections, I don’t feel shame the next day for my absurd drinking behavior and I get to remember all the good times.
I wish you a very happy sober holiday season filled with laughter and love. If you or anyone you know needs someone to talk to about their challenges with alcohol or if you need help finding sober support please feel free to reach out to me directly at (904) 362-0497.
My phone works 24/7 and it would be a honor to help you find freedom in sobriety.