We all know that holidays are a stressful time. Most of us struggle with family issues, trying to manage finances, which house do we go to first, who’s cooking, cleaning, and traveling. It’s a lot to think about and worry about.
As addicted people there is a general difficulty coping with emotions. It is at the core of why we drink and/or use drugs and that ability to cope is the thing we work the hardest to develop to maintain our sobriety.
Feelings are overwhelming. It has been said that whatever age we begin drinking and/or using drugs regularly is the age we stop maturing. The thought behind this is, we stop developing coping skills. Instead, our main coping mechanism becomes drinking and drugs. When angry, we turn to our substance. When anxious, we turn to our substance. If we get our feelings hurt, are sad, lonely, or fearful of the future we turn to our substance. Difficult conversation you don’t want to have? Substance. Important event you are super nervous about? Substance. Unfortunately, substance masks the feelings but it does not solve the problem.
As we approach the holiday season and all of the stressors that come with it, it is important to be aware of these underlying struggles so we can have a plan, and stay safe and sober.
1) Have an Ally
Whoever that may be for you, wherever you are going, have someone who is a safe person that you can buddy with if needed. For me, this is someone who doesn’t drink, who also knows that I am sober and it is important to me to maintain my sobriety, and also someone with a sense of humor because humor is my go-to solution when I am uncomfortable. Sometimes I may go off by myself and call one of my friends just to relax and recalibrate for a minute. But I always have at least one person I can just be my sober self with and feel safe and comfortable.
2) Be Mindful of Your Triggers
One of the most important things I can do is to be aware of my own triggers. When I was a drinker I loved tequila. If I am at a holiday party and a bottle of tequila is being passed around, or a tray of shots is going around, it is probably a good time for me to excuse myself for a few minutes. Maybe it’s a bathroom break, maybe it’s to call or text with a friend for a minute to keep me grounded, maybe I step away and send a fun selfie to my mom. Whatever is needed to keep me in a good sober state of mind. Tequila is not going to chase me, and no one can force me to drink. I am responsible for taking care of myself and the smart thing for me to do is to separate myself from situations that could be challenging.
3) No FOMO
For those of you who don’t know, FOMO is Fear Of Missing Out. Sometimes there is a strange little feeling we get when we see other people enjoying their glass of wine, or we see our friends and/or family mixing their cocktails and laughing together- we start to feel like we are missing out on something special. We can start to feel different and separated. I have to remember the only thing I am missing out on is a horrific hangover and probably making a lot of people angry. Not to mention, if I drank, I would be devastated and heartbroken, and I would lose everything I have worked for. No FOMO. Do not convince yourself you are missing out on some special moment.
4) Don’t Test Yourself
I hear this one a lot from people when they are newly sober. They want to ‘test’ themselves and see how they feel being around alcohol. It’s kind of dumb when you think about it. This is not a time to test yourself because there are too many forces working against us at the holidays. Test yourself later, when there isn’t so much stress and general discomfort. Or, better yet, don’t test yourself at all. If you are in a good place don’t push your luck. Be grateful and don’t test yourself.
5) Stay Busy
This is a big one for me. I have terrible social anxiety and it makes it very difficult to sit around and chit chat with people. I am so much more comfortable when I am busy. So maybe I help with some of the cooking, or setting the table, or the clean up. Or maybe I find a task with my niece or one of my brothers and I stay involved in that. Whatever I can do, I try to be helpful to those around me and I try to stay busy.
6) Be Grateful
Of course, this is my personal favorite, gratitude. Be grateful you are clean and sober. Be grateful you get to have these moments with people you love. Be grateful you aren’t in jail or dead. As sober people we have the opportunity to recreate and live a whole new life. That is nothing short of AMAZING. Many people aren’t nearly that blessed. So look around at the people who love you and take a moment to love them back. Count your blessings and all the sober friends you have all across the world. I can go anywhere on the planet and I have a built-in family of sober people who will care about me and protect me. Not many people have that, but sober people do.
Holidays are an amazing time. If we take some simple measures to protect ourselves we can get through the uncomfortable stuff and celebrate the victory on the other side. Call your friends, go to a meeting, be helpful to others, remember how incredible your sober life is. And protect it at all cost.
Happy Holidays, my friends.
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