As I mentioned in an earlier post, like me, many people find this a very difficult time of year. When I think back to my first christmas after I sobered up, I remember hanging into my sobriety by the skin of my teeth. I had moved far from where my parents lived, and only got home for the holidays some years. But I decided to go home that first year sober (in hindsight, not the best choice – it would have been easier to get some sobriety under my belt before venturing into holidays with my family …).
Like many families, holidays meant even more drinking than usual. There I am, just 7 months sober, and going into a household that loves to drink at a time when any crazy family behaviour gets even worse, people are tired from all the prep and stressed by how much money they are spending, and there is too much food, sugar and booze. A recipe for a very difficult visit. Add to that, I had not said much to my family about sobering up – I was too scared about how they might react, and I was too new at keeping sober even “one day at a time.” So I just showed up and told them I was not drinking. (As well, I didn’t tell them I was also not doing drugs. Mostly they had no idea I even did drugs, never mind too many and too often. In fact, they are only now – through my writing this blog – learning how big a problem I had with drugs.)
So there I am, gathered around the family table, telling them I am not drinking and instead going to A.A. My grandmother repeatedly offered me “just a beer, so don’t worry about it.” Too bad that my favourite thing to drink was beer. Of course, there were toasts, complete with more offers of “just a small glass.” And everywhere I looked, more booze …
I can remember clenching my hands under the table, and telling myself to just say no over and over. Fortunately, I had somewhat prepared for being offered a drink by my family. In our Novelco (A.A. offshoot) discussion group, we had spent several weeks preparing to handle social and family situations over the holidays. We each had someone we could call anytime during the holidays if we were thinking about taking a drink/using. For those who were travelling home, like me, we made sure to find out when and where there were A.A. meetings where we were going. And we dreamed up crazy/possible family situations and talked about how to handle them. Even so, what actually happened was different and harder than I imagined. But at least I was ready, and able to keep firm on not wanting to take even just one drink. I knew where I could find meeting, and only had to call my sponsor once.
The other thing I did was limit the amount of contact I had with my family that holiday by only staying for four days, and then heading to a friend’s place for New Years far away (meaning that I could not be pressured to stay longer). It was a hard four days, and I had to really focus on staying sober each day (and hour and minute sometimes). But I knew I had friends in A.A. I could reach out to and A.A. meetings I could attend, so it was like travelling with my own support group.
What I learned was how important it was to plan how to stay sober when going into situations where booze and family pressures would make it hard. And to know and call on my A.A. community to help me to stay sober, one day at a time. Even if you have a slip, remember you can always find a meeting any day anywhere, and that fighting for your sobriety is so very worth it!