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Yep. It’s that time of year.
Look, let’s be real. I’m an alcoholic. Every time of the year could be a difficult time to stay sober, if I’m being honest. It doesn’t have to be, but temptation doesn’t discriminate.
Even if you don’t identify as an alcoholic, those of us who choose to get and stay sober know how tough it can be. Not only are we up against our own brains, we’re up against society, sometimes relatives, sometime friends, sometimes other well-meaning individuals who have a hard time wrapping their mind around the teetotaler lifestyle. “Can’t you just have one glass of wine for dinner?” Nah, bro.
I’m writing this quickly because I have to get to the store. Yes, the day before Thanksgiving, I’m going grocery shopping with three kids. Because I like to make life difficult for myself. But until then, I had to write.
Here are 3 things I do to stay sober through the holidays:
(And not just “not drink”, but actually feel good. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.)
1) I look for where I can be useful.
I can help cook (sort of). I can clean. I can entertain babies, or children, or ask an elderly person about their life.
Truthfully, I’m still not great at this. I get overwhelmed with all the planning and preparation involved, not to mention the people. We have a big family, and split families, so there are a lot of people involved. I often made myself scarce back when I drank, and got into my stash of liquor from my purse, hidden in the freezer, or whatever.
I’m still not great at being in the middle of a lot of noisy people, but that’s not because I prefer to be off drinking anymore. When I make myself useful in some way, not only does it help take my mind off the desire to escape, it gives me those elusive warm fuzzies that I was using booze to get.
There is always something I can do to help. There’s always a dish I can get out of the oven, a child’s plate I can carry, dishes to be washed, leftovers to be put away, babies to be entertained and held so their parents can relax. That has always been my experience with a bigger family. In a smaller family, the task list might be quicker, but there’s still always something we can do.
I’m focusing more on the actual day of eating in this area, but it expands to so much. When I feel bored or restless, I try to remember to look for where I can be helpful. Somebody could always use some help.
2) I get creative with traditions and gifts.
I’m no Martha Stewart, y’all. Gift-giving is not my love language, so it’s easy to put that off until the last minute, but really it’s usually my perfectionism getting in the way. Cooking is a fun way for me to express some creativity though, and I get to eat what I make. Win/win.
Instead of putting mental energy into whether I will or won’t drink, or if I can try moderation for the bajillionth time or not, I prefer to put my energy into family. Not in a picture-perfect holiday season kind of way, but there are a few things that are important to me.
Using a kit to make our own ornaments together is a tradition (at least one ornament per person), because our tree is full of homemade ornaments and I like it that way. Baking cookies with frosting at least once is another tradition. Visiting family, volunteering, and reading Christmas stories together a few nights a week are important traditions as well.
Whatever your traditions or holiday festivities are, there are so many ways to fill the time with positive memories. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, either. Trust me – I hate doing all the things. I’d rather do NONE of the things than try to do them all, so I don’t overdo this anymore. I just do a little bit where I can.
3) I bring my own drinks.
Seems simple enough, but it makes a huge difference to me. I don’t wait around to see what kinds of non-alcoholic options people have anymore. Alcohol isn’t a huge thing in my family, but it’s usually around somewhere, and it’s easy for me to overthink it and start feeling left out.
Side note: I don’t know if it’s family being supportive, or just that I stopped buying so much alcohol (or both), but I’ve noticed how little role alcohol plays in the holidays now. It used to be a Big Deal. Stopping at the liquor store, stocking up the fridge and freezer. I always had to have more than enough. Now, it’s barely around. Crazy how such a thing can impact the holidays like that.
Anyway, I bring my own drinks now. For over 2 years, I stuck to water and diet soda. That got boring, and I can’t believe it took me 2 years to finally start dabbling with sparkling water and those different flavors. Zero calorie and everything.
I don’t have any pretty pictures of holiday-themed drinks that I’ve made (yet), but this is one example from a few months ago. Pellegrino sparkling water (plain) with a dash of cherry-flavored sparkling water. All zero cal, zero everything. Delicious. Sometimes just having something pretty to sip makes a difference for me. I’ve chopped up fruit for my drinks, added pretty color mixes, all sorts of things.
My favorite mixes tend to be plain sparkling water with a splash of Sparkling Ice flavored water, with chopped fruit. As far as brands go, I also enjoy Izze sparkling water. There are just so many options, and it doesn’t have to be boring. It also doesn’t have to be over-the-top. I try to stick to low or zero calories and sugar where I can, though.
And there you have it. 3 things you can start doing right now to stay sober, where you’re at. And because you read this far, I’m going to throw in some bonus things that I do:
- I hit up extra 12-step meetings.
- Call or text my sponsor a little more than usual just to say hi, check in, or continue working the steps I’m working.
- Reach out to my sober and supportive friends (follow me on Instagram, there is an active and supportive recovery group all over IG!)
- Get to sleep earlier.
- Wake up earlier (for at least one hour of quiet time between me, myself, and God).
- More journaling, and apparently more blogging.
- Take it easy on expectations and perfectionism.
What are your biggest hangups during the holidays? Does anything on this list help, or would you add some of your own?
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Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around. Read my story...
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