Christmas – it’s,” the most wonderful time of the year”. Right?
Well, maybe not for everyone. For many people who have stopped drinking, or are seriously considering it, the holidays, with all the attendant socializing, stress and parties, can seem like a time to be endured, not celebrated. The stress of Christmas can be difficult to experience both physically and emotionally for many people, but can be especially difficult for those of us who are new to a sober way of life.
And it can be even harder for those who may still be trapped in the cycle of addiction. If that is you, please know there is a way out.
Addiction of any kind is a disease of isolation, and it thrives in darkness. The holiday season can be a difficult time for many alcoholics and addicts who are new in recovery. Even some who have been clean and sober for a while can have difficulty maintaining emotional balance during this season.
Additionally, there can be pressure to drink, from friends and relatives, and that in itself can be reason to isolate and avoid activities like Christmas dinner. To quit drinking during this time of year can be difficult – but is not impossible. In fact, it is the best gift you can give yourself, and your loved ones!
Not Drinking Christmas Day
For most alcoholics, Christmas is a time associated with drinking. Christmas is supposed to be a happy, joyous time of year. But for us, when we drink to excess or get high to help us to loosen up, we sometimes miss the mark, and exceed our limits.
Drinking alcohol during the holidays has been a major part of the festivities. Unfortunately, our drinking booze or wine has led to excesses which we regretted the next day. Resentments and hurt feelings caused us shame and guilt. So, we drank more.
Additionally, drinking alcohol to celebrate, especially during the holiday season, has been ingrained in us by our culture. We have gotten the message through relentless advertising, in movies and through television shows, our entire lives.
First Sober Christmas
For this reason, especially for those who are newly sober, the thought of attending Christmas Dinner and Christmas Day celebrations can cause anxiety or a stress reaction. For alcoholics, sobriety is not a natural state of being. For many alcoholics, not drinking is in fact the very opposite of our “normal” state. Alcohol has been a “social lubricant” for us in the past. For some of us alcohol has enabled us to socialize and relax. What are we to do on the big day without it?
Christmas can be an especially hard time of the year if you are already struggling to maintain your sobriety. However, if you are unsure if you have the ability to resist temptation without alcohol, it’s better to avoid a situation that can put your sobriety in jeopardy.
There are a variety of reasons you may feel you don’t have the ability to resist the urging of that certain immediate family member or drunk relative that will keep after you to drink. You may not feel you have the patience to stay calm in the face of drunken in-laws, especially the very inebriated ones!
If you have no idea how to get through the holidays without your usual Bailey’s, mulled wine, or champagne, take heart and remember that you are not alone. Even if you’ve been sober for just a few months, you may be stressing about whether or not you might relapse during this time.
Remember that many alcoholics and addicts have been able to attain and maintain sobriety during the holiday season, throughout December through mid January. Connection to others who are sober can be the key. Have a meeting or two in mind that you can go to, either before or after you attend that family gathering or office party.
For many of us, the words sober and Christmas do not go together. We have been absent in the past for Christmas festivities. A lot of us hate the entire season, because we have unreasonable expectations about Christmas, that can’t be met. And that in itself can be a good reason to get high.
Many employers have parties for their employees during this time of year, not everyone will drink, but most will involve alcohol. However, it is possible to stay sober at these functions with a little planning and preparation. For example – leaving early is always an option, or go with a sober friend.
Also, non alcoholic drinks like hot chocolate or sparkling cider can be a treat and an energy boost. Soft drinks or iced tea can be a good substitute for alcohol. And, you can have a great time with no hangover the next day. Most people at these parties don’t really care what’s in the glass, as long as you have a drink in your hand. And the best part is that you won’t have to hear stories about your inappropriate behavior the next morning!
One of the most important parts of having a sober Christmas is connection with sober friends. Feeling alone and isolated during your first sober Christmas, or even your tenth sober Christmas, is exactly what your disease would love for you. And you never know, by staying sober yourself during this difficult time of year, you may just help someone else do the same!
Have a plan before you attend a function where there may be alcohol. Be sure you take your own transportation to these events. Have an escape plan. If you are feeling shaky around work colleagues who are drinking booze or wine, it may be time to exit. Call a sober friend, go to a meeting, or just get out of there.
Also, remember to take some time for yourself during this festive period to have fun. A great way to check out our own emotional temperature is to check in with others who may also be struggling. Journal or meditate. Have some phone numbers of other sober people who can help you keep grounded, if needed.
Alcohol Free Christmas
For alcoholics and addicts, spending this Christmas sober is the best gift we can give to ourselves and our family and loved ones.
Although it may be intimidating to contemplate attending a sober Christmas party with family members who may be pressuring you to drink or use, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself in advance.
At first the idea of staying sober and not drinking alcohol in a social setting, like a holiday gathering, can seem an impossible task. Especially if it’s our first sober Christmas. You may question why you have to stop drinking and spend Christmas sober at all.
For those who have chosen sobriety as a new way of life, it is important to take time to remember why we got sober in the first place. Keep in mind all the positives being alcohol free can bring. Remember we are trying to avoid all the misery, guilt and shame our addiction caused us in the past.
If you are still reading this article, chances are that alcohol and drugs have stopped working for you. It is sometimes a difficult admission to make, and can be still harder to consider making the drastic changes sobriety will require, especially during the holiday season.
However, just like anything else that is worth doing, staying sober can bring about positive and wonderful new experiences to us, but can also take a lot of work to attain and to maintain.
Keep in mind, it’s that first drink that gets us, not the third or the fourth – it’s that first one. Please remember – If you don’t take the first drink, you can’t get drunk!
Holiday parties, whether they are put on by your employer, or your friends, can seem to be another obstacle to a sober Christmas. The holidays are a time to celebrate and have fun with those people that you care about. So, if you have plans to go to a party where there may be alcohol, go with another sober person, if possible.
If you are meeting up with friends for holiday parties, inviting someone who is sober to come with you can make the experience more enjoyable and a whole lot less stressful.
Yes, being sober can feel isolating at times, but having someone with you that understands what you may be going through and is also sober, can make saying “No” a lot easier. Keep in mind that “No, thank you” is a complete sentence!
If you are feeling anxious during this festive season, (and who isn’t?) it is never wrong to go to a meeting! Thankfully, there are many 12-Step groups that meet throughout the holiday season. Some groups do “Alca-Thons” which are meetings that are held every hour throughout the full day, beginning Christmas Eve.
Connection with other people who share the same anxieties and experiences and have the same stresses can be an extremely healing experience. Sharing our struggles with others not only cuts them in half, but it is also a way to be of service to others by letting them know they are not alone either.
If you are experiencing emotional turmoil, there is a good chance that someone else is, too. Your words may just give them the courage to share their struggles with others and begin the healing process for them. That is giving of the highest order.
Waking up on Christmas day sober is the best gift you can give yourself, your children, and others whom you care about. It can also be the best gift you can give your loved ones. To celebrate your first Christmas newly sober, can truly be a time of connection and gratitude.
By not drinking alcohol you may find that spending quality time with family and friends can give you the emotional boost that you need to commit to stay sober and celebrate, during this festive season.
Be Present in the Moment Without Alcohol
If you plan to stay sober during all the Christmas shopping and celebrating, it is a good idea to take some time for yourself. It’s really important to remember that it is ok to retreat and take some down time. Be present and stay in the moment. Meditate or read a book that inspires you. These actions can help us to get centered and maintain emotional balance.
Of course, we can’t avoid alcohol completely at any time of the year. But it can be especially difficult to avoid during Christmas parties and other gatherings. That is why it is very important to establish sober connections that can act as an emotional safety net, when we are tempted to give in to old ideas.
Benefit of Staying Sober
Another benefit of staying sober through the holiday season is the payoff of being hangover free. Because we no longer need to medicate that hangover with more alcohol, we don’t take that first drink. We then avoid starting up the craving that begins the cycle all over again.
Experiencing our first sober Christmas can be a joyous time for us. Being clean and sober can add a new dimension to our lives, and we can celebrate our new freedom from our self constructed prisons. Christmas is a time of giving, and to experience genuine connection with others, you will enhance everyone else’s enjoyment, and may find that you can even deepen your family relationships.
Hope and sobriety – physical as well as the emotional – can be difficult to maintain while dealing with the stresses of all the family gatherings and spending time and money on gifts. Not to mention traveling, which is on another level of stress entirely. Having to do all this while you are trying to be present and deal with your own issues can be overwhelming.
Depending on your situation, physical sobriety can be a relatively easy matter. The really challenging part is staying sober while maintaining some type of balance in your life.
Of course, Christmas and all the attendant celebrations are not always stress-free and enjoyable. But if you are able to get through all of it sober, there is a really good chance you can keep it going into the New Year!
Local Homeless Shelter
Many of us who have years of sober recovery know that giving something back helps us to maintain our physical and emotional recovery.
Helping others in need is a good way to get a perspective on your situation, and also find some gratitude, no matter your current circumstances.
A great way to do that, not just at Christmas, but at any time of year, is to volunteer in your community. For instance, there may be opportunities for service at your local homeless shelter. Getting involved in your 12-step group is another way to help others. There are many service opportunities in meetings such as chairing a meeting, making the coffee, or setting up the meeting space.
Being sober and giving back to others is a really wonderful way to not only feel good about yourself, but can rebuild the self esteem and self respect we lost and that we now deserve.
You can’t think your way into a new way of acting; you have to act your way into a new way of thinking.
New Year’s Eve
Known as “Amateur Night”, having a sober New Year’s Eve is one of the most important reasons to continue to maintain sobriety. As you may know from previous experience, law enforcement is on the look out for drunk drivers, and rowdy party goers.
It’s a really great feeling to see a police check point, and know you have nothing to fear. Our addictions have caused us to feel bad about ourselves. Some of us carry a heavy burden of shame and guilt with us as the result of our actions when we were out of control.
We can change that. But, in order to regain the self esteem we spent so much time destroying, we must begin to do esteem-able things. Attaining and maintaining sobriety can be a fantastic way to do that. It can be a beginning to a new way of living.
Turning Point of Tampa
Turning Point of Tampa now not only offers a full continuum of care with Medical Detox, Residential Treatment, Day Treatment (PHP), and Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) for alcohol and drug addiction; as well as treatment for eating disorders and dual diagnosis.
Turning Point of Tampa also welcomes Veterans to the program and has dedicated some specific support groups and therapy styles for their related needs.
Our therapists have extensive experience with addictions, eating disorders, trauma and dual diagnosis. Upon admission each client will see a Therapist to get their individualized Treatment Plan for their recovery journey while in treatment. Also, for the safety of our Clients, they will stay in a secure house, in a gated community which is monitored by our staff, 24hrs per day. Additionally, members of our staff are always available to talk with and ask any questions that may arise during their stay.
Turning Point of Tampa’s goal is to always provide a safe environment and a solid foundation in 12-Step recovery, in tandem with quality individual therapy and group therapy. We have been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department.