The Holidays in general are a big drinking period. I know that most of the festivities I’ve attended over the years have included large amounts of alcohol and generally an awkward feeling (on my end). Even though I’ve gone through both drinking periods and sober periods during the holidays I’ve never felt right when I was drinking. Everything felt forced or too loose and I felt like I wasn’t really there.
This year I’ve already conquered one holiday sans-alcohol: Friendsgiving. Friendsgiving was last night and went off without a hitch. It was a good time of being around both friends and future family while indulging in tasty treats and holding onto the giant bottle of seltzer water I brought along. I wanted to write a list of a few things that helped me get through the day, so if you’re sober this Thursday or on Christmas and/or New Years you’ll have a few things to keep in mind if the day or night begins to feel a little wonky.
- Call a friend // This always reminds me of an old game show I used to watch where you could call a friend if you needed help. But, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting. There’s no reason to struggle alone and I think it can be invaluable to have that one friend you can count on to pick up the phone no matter what. Texting also works.
- Bring seltzer // There’s no reason not to bring your own beverages. I know my friends and family generally stock non-alcoholic drinks in their fridge, but sometimes it’s easier if I don’t even have to ask. That can be a big stress for me, so by BYOS(seltzer) I eliminate the middle-man and am at the ready to hydrate.
- Leave before you’re maxed out // There is no reason to stay past your prime. I’d say leave when you’re having fun. We left last night after two hours because generally that’s just enough time for me to have fun before my anxiety comes out to play. Whenever I’m sober, I’m better about keeping my anxiety at bay and not putting myself in situations that may make it worse/give me an anxiety attack.
- Pack a self-care kit // I got this idea from a class I took, but tweaked it a bit to work for me. I chose a small bag from Savers and filled it with things that encourage a relax me: hand cream, crystals, and three cards: two of which came in my goodie box for Raise Your Hand and Say Yes and one from a deck of cards I have. I also added a small book that found me on a bookshelf the other day. It’s called: “Back to Joy: Little Reminders to Help Us Through Tough Times.” It’s full of sweet quotes that make me smile and remind me of what’s important when my mind begins to spin. Today I picked-up the book and read The Road Back to Joy by Mary Kolada Scott:
Somewhere you lost your way. You were happy once, but circumstances took you on a detour. You’re overwhelmed by massive roadblocks or unexpected potholes. You’ve been down-sized–financially, emotionally, and/or physically.
If it’s any comfort, most of the people you know are suffering, too. Many lives have been rudely adjusted to a world we didn’t envision, plan, or create. Recovery or getting by might be your “new normal.”
Despite your stalled momentum, there is a way back to joy. “Joy” is a simple word, refreshing as a breath of air. It conveys moments of pure pleasure. As a child you focused on small delights–running outdoors on the grass. A cup of hot chocolate. Watching a favorite movie over and over. A treasured stuff animal. Sharing a secret.
Recall how you marveled at the things that brought your joy as you grew older. Children’s laughter. Plunging into cool water and resurfacing. Sleeping late. Cracking open a new book. Flea markets. A breathtaking sunset.
You have problems to resolve, but you still have the capacity for joy. Rejoice in the things that give you pleasure now. Breathe. Enjoy a cup of calming tea or a bracing mug of coffee. Put your feet up. Let your hair down.
These small graces are momentary rest stops on the journey, but sometimes taking a break from a worry rut leads to a different path. What fun is a road trip without diversions? And sometimes a new direction is what you need to get back on the road to a random joy.
I love that I can travel around with this small book aways feeling like I have a friend close at hand. Books to me are like security blankets, so if you have one in particular love or find one that speaks to you I think it’s worth stashing away in your bag for when you need it.
- Nobody actually cares what you drink // It’s my belief that nobody actually cares if you drink or not. I’ve obviously drawn attention to myself because I choose to write about my sobriety and drinking publicly. BUT you don’t have to. You can read this or answer in any which way. Usually “I’m drinking seltzer/x tonight” works but if it doesn’t just remember you don’t owe anyone anything and everyone thinks a whole lot less about you than you think about you.
- Dress for success // I’ve said it before and I am saying it again: DRESS-UP. It’s that easy, but it literally makes so much of a difference. I dress-up because it gives me confidence, comfort, and helps my creativity thrive. In an unsure or potentially anxiety-ridden place a good outfit can change everything. I actually pre-gamed Friendsgiving my a giant thrifting trip yesterday plus wore all the bright colors because I wanted to. Stasia Savasuk is a style goddess and I recommend checking out her Instagram for ideas and more advice on why getting dressed matters so much.
- Puppies and babies are your people // There was a baby at Friendsgiving and we brought our puppy, so I was pretty much in heaven. Those are my people: cute, sometimes furry, completely wonderful creatures that make me realize how much I long for my carefree childhood. Snuggle up to them, talk to them, hang with them. They’ll love you booze or not.
- Snack beforehand // I say this for two reasons: 1) I get hangry. 2) People cook with alcohol. A lot of food is cooked in booze. It is a personal decision whether you’re fine eating food cooked in booze. Usually it is cooked out. I know 12 Step Programs who get super rigid about what you can and can’t have in order to keep your day count. My policy is this: I don’t drink alcohol. If it’s in my food it’s in my food. I’m not going to get drunk of my pasta. But, for those people who are worried about this eat beforehand or even bring a granola bar with you, so you don’t get to the event/dinner/holiday and can’t eat or drink. Trust me on this, snacks save the world.
- The bathroom isn’t just for peeing // The bathroom is also an opportunity for: pause, love, silence, and prayer. I have gotten on my knees in many a dirty bathroom to pray to a God I believe in. I also go there to readjust because sometimes I need a minute or two of alone time before re-joining the mix again.
- The point is not to be comfortable // If that was the point you would keep drinking. The point is to save your life, be present for your loved ones, and hold onto freedom that few people get in their lifetime.
These 10 things have given me peace of mind and successfully got be through Friendsgiving. But again this is just my experience with the tools that I have in my own recovery journey. I know people go to meetings, call sponsors, work steps, meditate, make, nap, binge a TV show etc. all in preparation for warding off anxiety/stress/holiday blues. These things work for them while the 10 above worked for me and have worked for me when I want to drink or am worried about feeling anxious and uncomfortable while everyone else is drinking.
There’s a common saying in the rooms of AA: we didn’t get sober to get miserable. I think that applies even if you don’t believe in or go to AA. I got sober to live a fuller, freer, freaking awesome life.
I did not get sober to get miserable.
I got sober to survive.