Holidays can be tough or they can be a time for gratitude and to stay sober.
I know that this post is not for everyone but I know that the holidays can be a tough time of year for people who are sober, whether they are newly sober or have a lot of time in the program. One of the mottos of Alcoholics Anonymous is to put principles before personalities, this can be easier said than done when we go to holiday gatherings or end up at parties for work, family, or friends. I have been at this a while but I remember what it was like to be new or to be in tough, uncomfortable situations. This is why I want to share 5 tips to staying sober for the holidays. These are things that have helped me keep trudging the road to happy destiny and I hope they help you too.
Be grateful for where you are, who you are with, and for the fact you’re sober.
I talk about gratitude frequently in my posts because it is impossible to be filled with negative emotions when you are filled with gratitude. You can eve cultivate gratitude in less than ideal circumstances if you practice and really focus on it. You may be in a situation with people who know how to push your buttons (family or friends) or with a group of people who simply cannot understand where you are coming from in your choice to not drink or use. You can still be grateful in the moment. If you need to you can write out a gratitude list or just focus on two or three things that you are really happy about, excited about, or grateful for. Examples are your friends and family, a job, school, sobriety, life in general, anything. The point is, when we really look around there is no reason to be stressed and a whole to of reasons to be grateful. When we go out armored with gratitude then we are able to really face any situation and thrive.
Have a support system.
If you are working a program then you hopefully have a sponsor. Do not be afraid to call them and to call them often if you need to. If you do not have a sponsor or go to meetings then you should go to meetings and get a sponsor. Even if you do not have a program I bet you do have people who are in your corner regardless of whether they are sober or not. Do not be afraid to use these people and speak openly and honestly about what is going on. If you get stressed out just take a minute and talk to someone who will listen. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that even if you are traveling there are probably meetings that you can go to wherever you are. Here are the links to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous websites where you can find meetings in any location. You can even call beforehand and make arrangements to go to one.
Know your limits and have an “out”.
It is all fun and games until it isn’t. Be honest with yourself and those around you when it stops being fun for you. If you are going to a holiday party where people will be drinking, do not be afraid to step out when people begin getting drunk or when you stop feeling comfortable. Your sobriety comes first and there is no shame in calling it a night. I have even made plans to go to a meeting in the middle of a get together I had to go to so I had a reason to leave a couple hours in. To me, there is nothing wrong with building in a backdoor to an event so that you have somewhere positive to go in the middle of your party. The key is to be honest with yourself and put your needs first. If you need to leave that is OK and you should just go. Your sobriety is the most important thing. It is the foundation that you are building your new life on so there is absolutely no reason to put it at risk.
“Put some money in the bank.”
This is a huge one for me. It is not just about staying sober but staying positive and happy. I am always sure that I am doing the things that take care of me before I jump into my day and worry about other people. For me it is getting a workout in, doing a little bit of meditation, and doing a little personal development. Whatever your routine is it is important that you do not stop doing that because life gets busy. Think of it as putting money in the bank for a rainy day. If you do your routine and focus on making your life and day positive then you will be less likely to let the stresses of the day negatively impact you. In short, you can deal with a lot more and keep your head on straight because you have a lot of positive energy stored. Remember that you need to be a priority in your life above all else so that you can be of maximum service to others. Here is an awesome website led by Noah Levine called Against the Stream. He gives Dharma talks on everything from compassion and gratitude to alcohol and drug addiction. Kevin and I listen to these frequently when we are in the car.
Be open and honest when possible.
My husband recently got certified to freedive and we went to a celebration on the last day of the class at a local restaurant/bar. When we got there everyone was drinking and we turned down what was offered to us by simply saying we do not drink. One of the guys from the class who was sitting across from us said he did not drink either. When Kevin asked him why he said straight up that he was an alcoholic. He has been sober about a month and we were able to share our experience, strength, and hope with him. All because he did not try to hide what was going on with him we were able to connect and gain that common ground. People will not always be receptive but in my experience when we are honest about the truth of our situation, not in any big, dramatic, TMI way, but in a simple, straight forward way people will generally respect it and not push the issue. If they do keep on you about drinking then you probably do not want to be around them anyway. Sometimes it is not feasible to say that you are an alcoholic and it is no one’s business if you do not want to tell them. Stick to your guns and let people know you are not drinking though, grab a club soda with a lime and hang out. You are sober after all, that is reason to celebrate!
Here is a bonus: Be of service to others.
In my experience the best way to get out of my head and out of stress is to get into service. You can go so far as to volunteer at a soup kitchen, a local food bank, or visit a retirement home… or you can just contribute around the house. Do the dishes, help with the cooking, watch the kids, see what you can do to be of service. This helps me to be present in the moment and to live with more appreciation. The secret to life is to contribute. In AA they say that we need to see what we can pack into the stream of life and to me this means that I need to see where I can be of service in the world. This is a surefire way to get out of any suffering you find yourself in this holiday season and any other time of the year.