Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sober Through The Holiday Season

One of the hardest times of year for people to stay sober is during the Christmas season. It's the biggest holiday of the year, with no doubts, and people 'full of good cheer' tend to:

* Take more time off since 2 stat holidays are in close succession (New Year's added)
* Feel obligated, through media ads, commercials, etc., to be 'in the spirit' of Xmas
* Spend more money at this time of year
* Visit family for the occasions of "Christmas Celebrations" and "New Years Parties"
* Have parties both with family/friends but also through workplaces

There are a number of other things that we see ONLY AT CHRISTMAS time and, unfortunately, most of the activities around this time of year don't actually MIX together well to make for happy times...

The fact that there are 2 holiday occasions a week apart - 2 of the most SIGNIFICANT events of the year, hands down - means that:

* Finances are rough for almost everyone
* People overspend
* Often the 2 holiday occassions are connected with each other on peoples' schedules and if one is stressful (Christmas) the tension simply carries over to the next (New Years).
* People often spend much more time with family at this time than at other times of the year, so family tensions invariably run high - it's not always that people don't LIKE their families...but when we grow up, move away from home and do other normal life activities, we get used to "our life" and often don't have the familiarity and patience with family that we used to when we lived at home. THIS IS NORMAL. But almost everyone says, during the Christmas Season - that is IT IS NOT RIGHT to have differences of opinion during this season...
* People EXCUSE the behaviors of family and friends (and employers and co-workers, etc) during this time of year, noting that we are all supposed to be partaking of the 'holiday spirit' of kindness, forgiveness, etc (blah blah blah)...IF we are not practicing these things YEAR ROUND, all the time, then a WEEK OF THIS ACTIVITY during Christmas and New Years is STRESSFUL AND UNCOMFORTABLE for most of us!

...slide youself some slack this Christmas season - Take care of yourself - especially if you have decided you want a sober life.

Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your sobriety this season:


This is in case people buy you drinks or coax you to drink.

This is in case people around you drink too much this season, even if you don't.

This is in case there are family or social tensions during the season, which might make you feel like you need to drink to calm down.

This is JUST TO BE SAFER THAN PEOPLE WHO AREN'T MAKING PLANS to look after themselves, because - even if they are not drinkers, many people IGNORE their basic needs of sleep, standing up for themselves with family, saying 'no' to the extra cost of things related to Christmas and New Years. If you are a recovering addict, you have to THINK SAFE more than some other people do, that's all.

Here are a few things that I have done as a safety plan.

* Created 'scripts' for potentially uncomfortable situations
* Selected a 'stressbuster' friend to call when things are going rough
* Planned decent sleep times and EXTRA NAP TIME (excitement and visiting is hard on the system)
* Located meetings - of any variety, so that I could attend if stress became an issue
* Made "enough" points to stick to ("have had enough excitement - time to go lay down," or "have had enough of being around a person who is drinking, so I am going to watch TV in another room," or "have had 'enough' Christmas visiting for the day and evening, it's Midnight and it's time for bed)
* Selected a secondary 'sponsor-like' person to call if my first was unavailable - or just in case I needed two support people
* Mandatory visit with sober group of people just prior to visiting family, just to reaffirm that there are A LOT OF PEOPLE who do not drink in this world

A bit on 'scripts' and then I'll close out this post:

* I created 'scripts' for my first sober Christmas - for family situations that seemed to happen every year. This way, I had a response ready and didn't have to think about responding. Sometimes this was just to say "No" to family members who asked me to get drinks for them during the holiday season.

* You know that it's time for a script in situations where people have said "Hey, grab me a drink on your way back to the room," and you nod, without thinking, and plan to fill the request. In early sobriety, this can actually be a dilemma, and people may never have heard you say, "No, I won't do that - please get your own drink" before. And sometimes, people won't even accept this small difference of response from you, do be prepared to have someone look at you like you just grew an ear on your chin and a second head from your elbow lol. Even for something this simple, a 'script' helps YOU. However else someone ELSE reacts to YOUR new, healthier response is really their choice.

This scripting is really helpful and is mainly just thinking AHEAD OF TIME about how to react to situations you are quire sure will occur.

--don't go overboard with this and try to develop a response for EVERYTHING or you'll worry yourself needlessly, but if there are situations that seem to occur every year or some expectations that you know that family members (of friends) had of you when you were a drinker...these are things you can make 'scripts' - new responses - for this season.
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