Friday, December 17, 2010

Staying Sober During the Holidays

It's that time of year when even people who don't normally drink will imbibe, at office parties, family gatherings, or at the homes of friends. What's an alcoholic to do with so much temptation? You can't exactly say no to every invitation, and besides, it's the holidays and you SHOULD enjoy yourself! Here are some tips on how I handle temptations, many of which I learned in rehab.

(1) Go with someone who knows you don't drink and who will support you. Stay away from friends who are "drink pushers"-- you know, the ones who used to encourage your drinking when you were using or are alcoholics themselves who were bummed when you decided to stop. (Chances are good you don't see these folks that much anymore anyway.)

(2) Have an escape plan. If the profusion of booze turns out to be too much for you, don't give into temptation. LEAVE. If you can't leave (because, say, you're the designated driver), call your sponsor or alert your trusted friend that you brought along with you that you're having a rough time. Perhaps go outside for some fresh air, or to the bathroom to splash some water on your face. If you have a smartphone, there is a One Day At A Time app (ODAAT) with prayers and quick meditations. Briefly reconnect with your 12 step program. As they say, once you've had a good dose of AA, drinking is a lot less fun to do.

(3) If someone walks up to you and asks if you'd like something to drink, say, "Sure! Do you have Diet Coke (or club soda or water or anything nonalcoholic)." Most people stop at that and give you what you ask for. But some will persist. "What? There's some great eggnog! You should try it!" (or rum punch, or wassail, or peppermint martinis). You can answer any number of ways: "No, I'm watching my calories" or simply "I don't drink." If they keep persisting, they're either tipsy themselves or have the sensitivity of a fly. To these folks, I'm prone to smiling and saying firmly, "Seriously, no. Thank you." If they persist, they're being a jackass, and you can walk away from them with a clear conscience.

(4) Watch out for hidden booze. Rum balls, bourbon balls, holiday punch, some cakes and pies. Even a simple bite with that old familiar flavor can set off unbearable cravings, so just don't go there to begin with.

(5) Alcoholics Anonymous. Meetings are always packed this time of year and just after the New Year, when people are trying to turn over a new leaf and start the year sober. Going to meetings keeps you connected to the program and you'll be less likely to drink. But AA also has holiday bashes... potlucks, dancing, speakers, the works, all without the booze. Often they run around the clock for several days, and you can drop by as needed. They do this because they know.

I know. It's normal for this time of year to be a little rough. Hang in there. Focus on other things: giving and receiving gifts, singing, music, conversation, games. One thing I was afraid of when I quit drinking was that parties and gatherings wouldn't be fun anymore. It's not true. Actually, most people don't drink to excess (it just seemed that way when I was drunk off my ass all the time). I've also discovered that most people like me much better as a sober person: after all, they get to interact with the REAL ME.

One day at a time. If you can get through 24 hours without a drink, that's all you need to do.

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