STAYING SOBER THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS; Tiptoeing through the minefields of euphoric recall, stress and temptation

STAYING SOBER THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS; Tiptoeing through the minefields of euphoric recall, stress and temptation

I remember that Christmas.  I had a bit of sobriety under my belt and headed off to spend the holidays with my family….Big Book in hand; sponsor’s number in my cell; a plan for daily meetings.  All was going pretty well, until the Christmas Eve meal.  Fine crystal, candles aglow, the festive meal prepared, and then the polite words of my mother as she poured my glass: “Honey, I got you some sparkling cranberry juice.”  I shoved back my chair and announced in my loudest sarcasm-laden voice:  “I don’t WANT the special wine MOM!”.  Stomped to my room, skipped the meal, took a sneaky drink the next day, was in the hospital being treated for alcoholic dehydration a week after New Years.  Yeah, that happened.

So the thing is, regardless how much sobriety I have (although the holidays in early sobriety are especially tough, they just are), there’s always going to be that alone-in-the-crowd feeling during the holiday season.  I drank every day. But there’s something about the holidays, when it seems like even the temperate partake, that triggers a euphoric recall in my brain.  The holidays remind me of a drink.  They need to remind me also of how it felt to be a drunk.

I’ve heard it called “playing the tape forward”.  What happened, every time, after that one drink?  There was another, and another, and another…….  The phenomenon of craving. We hear: “the first drink gets you drunk.”  “One is one too many, one more is never enough.”  Lots of ways to say the same thing, one way to avoid a holiday relapse:  Don’t drink.  Don’t use.  Play that tape all the way through.

We know the holidays are a minefield of triggers and temptations for those of us in recovery.  We also know the “holiday blues” can hit extra hard if we’re already struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.  Whether you’re in recovery or not, developing a plan for a happy and sober holiday season is a good idea.  Here are a few things that have worked for me:

  • Remember H.A.L.T. – don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
  • Write out a daily gratitude list.  I’ve heard it said:  “Gratitude never relapses.”
  • Stay away from slippery places – no one wants to go to ALL those holiday parties. Be selective.  You’re one of the lucky ones who gets to beg off!  When you ARE in a social situation where alcohol is served, remember what’s in your glass only matters to you.
  • Don’t forget about regular exercise – among exercising’s many benefits, it’s a natural mood booster and healthy use of your time.
  • Create some new traditions – buy a new board game or take a family “Thanksgiving/Christmas Day” hike.

Release your resentments.  Elevate your spirituality. Laugh a little more.  Take from the season what’s important for you and just leave the rest.

Happy Holidays!

About the Author:
Mary R. is a wife, mother, daughter, retired business owner and recovering alcoholic who relocated to southwest Florida from Ohio. As a person in recovery, she writes from the heart and shares her strength, hope and experience with others so that they too may recover from the prison of addiction. Her sobriety is strongly engrained in the belief that “you can’t keep it unless you give it away.”  When not volunteering for David Lawrence Centers or actively participating in 12-step meetings, you can find her living her life in recovery to its fullest potential playing tennis, traveling, or trying out a new recipe with family and friends.

Dec 16, 2016 | Blog

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