Happy Holidays!… Everyone seems to be saying this with giant grins on their faces, but for many of us, the holidays can be very tough. Whether you find yourself alone for a myriad or reasons, or find yourself surrounded by way too many people… The holidays can just be tough. From financial stress to already packed schedules getting bombarded with more activities to having to be nice to that one relative that always enjoys pushing your buttons…to the parties and family dinners where everyone is having a glass of something bubbly… except for you. The holidays are a great time of generosity and gathering with loved ones, but for us alcoholics/addicts the holidays can be a time of great stress - emotional, physical and spiritual stress at that! So what do you do? I’m going to share some of the things I do for myself to keep myself semi - sane and fully sober during the holidays.
#1. I stick to my rules - Mainly, I stick to the rule that says I don’t go anywhere when I know in advance that I will be the only one not drinking. Even if it is family. (if I show up somewhere and find I am the only one not drinking - I leave - gasp!) And I know other people who stick to this rule too! It can be hard because sometimes it means spending time alone or it can mean sitting in on several meetings in a row or it can mean curling up on the couch to some of your favorite holiday movies - the ones that make you really happy and not the ones that make you sad. It can also mean making those sobriety check calls - you know the ones where you’re the one who needs help, but instead you call and check on others to make sure they are okay? Service work does wonders which brings me to the next point….
#2. Service Work - I find that the holiday season is a great time to take commitments in meetings and in the greater metro area. This season I have commitments in AA and at church. I am serving in some of my church’s Christmas Eve services and I have signed up to take 12 step calls on the weekend before Christmas. The 12 step call commitment has me brushing up on my AA knowledge and I have picked up some more meetings to be prepared for what my come my way on my weekend to receive calls from those who feel their sobriety is in jeopardy. Another commitment I picked up is chairing a local meeting in January. Obviously, I have to make it through the holidays and stay sober to chair a meeting in January and I have to start going to that meeting so I know a little bit about the people who tend to show up there. All of this service work is helping me to feel useful, purposeful and it gives me a sense of belonging to my local community.
#3. Keep the emotional boundaries Up! - Oh it can be so hard, but one of the many blessings of my addiction is the ability to recognize when something is really aimed at me and when I am just someone’s target for the night. Family members all mean well, but they don’t always treat us well all of the time. Whether it is someone going off on you for something you did or did not do ten years ago or whether it is someone repeatedly dogging you for an area of your life that you are trying to work on… these conversations always seem to show up whenever relatives are around. I always try to listen to the person and ask my Higher Power if there is anything I need to take and chew on from the altercation. If so , I do just that. I take it and I chew on it and I learn from it. What I do not do is cry my eyes out and allow the other person to make me feel small, worthless and helpless because I know how far I have come from the person I used to be.
#4. Give yourself room to breathe. - Recognize when you need a minute or an hour to two. Allow yourself time to recharge whether that means retiring to your room and a good book, taking a long walk alone or taking yourself to the movie theatre and getting lost in the story on the screen. Everyone has limits and it is important to recognize your own limits and honor them. If you do, you will return from your break recharged and ready to enjoy the rest of the festivities for that day or night. If you don’t honor your own limits you might end up in an argument or fight and nobody wants that!
So those are my go-to’s for surviving the holidays. I really do enjoy this time of the year as I am a big gift giver and this year I can actually afford to spoil my family with some much needed gift-love. This hasn’t been the case in the past so I am especially joyful this year. But even with all my extra joy - I am still enacting all of the above because I know that I have to keep my priorities in order: God, Sobriety, Everything and Everyone else!