As if holidays aren't tricky enough, being sober during these times, when being merry and celebratory is analogous with having a drink in hand, can be daunting. I know, I've had a few (seven and counting still) myself.
One of the most elemental facets of sobriety is to make sure that you are always taking care of yourself, on every level. If you are not going to spend the holidays alone (I'm hardly ever against the idea!), you should have some contingency plans in place for the trip to grandmas.
The first task I completed in my first year sober during the holidays was to take a sheet of paper with every single e-mail address and phone number of all my support systems (at the time, there were many), quotes I loved, goals I had..etc. I wrote SURVIVING MY HOLIDAY SOBER on the top of it, scribbled incessantly and tucked the paper into my wallet. In all honesty, I never once pulled it out. But, it sure did help knowing that at any time, I could run outside and call someone or read some relevant bit that would ease the anxiety.
Okay, piece of life support paper in tow...doesn't get you through family ordeals or questions. Simple thing to remember: "Sometimes, the less information given, the better". Does Aunt Sally really care about whether you are drinking a bottle of wine with her? It probably bothers you more than she. Do you need to launch into a sober diatribe? Depends, but I would lean no. You are primarily sober for you, no one else. Your sobriety is an added benefit for those around you.
It's your choice as to how much information about your life you want to disclose. I've learned in the last seven years that if one of my family members still chooses to believe I was in a big magazine for helping people (when, in reality, the article was about me being a former party girl), then so be it. Not worth the argument.
Before and after long hours at the table, it may help remember the following thoughts (I've used one or all over the years):
- Pets are a good reason to excuse yourself early to go home
- Going for a walk with one family member is sometimes easier than answering to twelve and fresh air never hurts
- Any kind of clear soda in a glass with some fruit that you get immediately upon arrival will usually put an end to the "what are you drinking" question
- Be kind to yourself, don't fall into the roles that we're assigned at birth
- Remember that this day falls only once a year
- There is no chance you will get pulled over on the way home
- You will not be hungover on Friday
- Be thankful, really thankful, that you are sober this year
- Families usually fight because it's like looking in a bunch mirrors, everyone is related and similar
- Watch sugar, it's a great way to become testy
After seven years, I think I am just about starting to love holidays again. The panic isn't there, I have control over my emotions when it comes to family sagas and I just really am thankful to be where I am in life.
And thanks to all of you. I'll be on http://www.mix97fm.com/ in New York on Wednesday at 730am EST. You can also listen on-line.
Have a safe and happy holiday.