I don’t know about you but I got sober to enjoy life again. I have been reading a lot of sober tips for “surviving” the holidays and, to be honest, most of them were a real downer: “Holidays can be stressful, depressing and dangerous for people in recovery because of all the temptations.” News flash – the same temptations, people, places and things are around every day not just holidays.
Listen, I’m not delusional. Growing-up, holidays at the McAlister’s home were always a special time for excess and mayhem. The adults drank hard and often. We never needed an excuse to “party” but during the holiday season we took it to a new level and the younger generation soon learned that drugs only added to the insanity. Things usually began well enough with everyone arriving on time and happy to see each other but they rarely stayed that way. You can’t pack a group of over-opinionated Irish drunks in a room without expecting arguments, or – at worst – fantastic knockdown, drag-out fist fights. What’s amazing is that by the end of the evening everyone would make-up. This usually involved some crying and “I love you’s,” then we would go to bed. The next morning we would wake up, pretend it never happened, and repeat the same behavior at the next family get together. What a party!
Today my life is different. I live life to the fullest. I am spiritually grounded enough to not allow other people’s drama to affect me or infiltrate my consciousness. This is a result of embracing recovery, living the lifestyle and practicing the following principles in all my affairs.
The same simple tips I use to stay sober everyday work just as well to achieve a sober holiday season:
#1 Make a deposit into your recovery bank account. Every time I attend a 12-step meeting it is like adding capital into my recovery bank account. This way I have an abundance of funds to draw upon in the event of a holiday emergency. Attend a 12-step meeting every day not just on holidays.
#2 Be careful how you talk to yourself. We talk to ourselves all day long. What types of conversations are you having? Often we focus on fears, resentments, weaknesses and past failures. This is not productive. Change the conversation. Write down some positive, faith-filled affirmations and commit them to memory. Substitute your positive affirmations when you find yourself drifting into negativity. I’ll share with you my own affirmations: God wants me sober. God wants me happy. God wants me abundantly wealthy. God wants me spiritually fit. God wants me to help others.
#3 Charity begins at home. What I mean by this is you are first and foremost responsible for yourself. To borrow a line from airplane emergency instructions: first put the mask on yourself and then try to help another traveler. Your sobriety and your mental, emotional and spiritual health are your top priorities. Don’t be manipulated into attending functions that will put you at risk and negatively impact your peace of mind.
# 4 Take care of your sobriety as you would a treasured gift. Make sure you allow for unseen challenges and prepare accordingly. Always keep phone numbers of people you can contact in case of emergency. If possible, I like to drive myself to events so if things start to bother me I am free to leave without being a disruption to anyone else. I also make it a habit not to leave my non-alcoholic drink lying around. I don’t want to accidentally grab the wrong drink, possibly containing liquor, and risk setting off the phenomenon of craving. Jealously guard your sobriety.
#5 Don’t take the bait. We all encounter difficult people whose attitudes or ideas conflict with our own. Anger and resentment are a luxury we cannot afford. They are high on the list of reasons people relapse. When I feel myself being drawn into conflict, I ask: do I want to be right or do I want to be happy? I choose to be happy. I do my best not to allow my ego or false pride to lead me into disagreements that can ruin my day and possibly lead to relapse.
#6 Celebrate life. We who are experiencing recovery have been saved from a progressive terminal illness. If that is not reason to celebrate the day I don’t know what is. The miracle of recovery is that, unlike other potentially terminal diseases requiring surgery and medication, all I need to do is live a better life and follow a few simple suggestions and my disease is kept in check. In hindsight I was blessed to have become an alcoholic/addict because the 12-Step lifestyle has given me the tools to deal with all of life’s challenges in a productive way.
#7 Have a “no exceptions” policy. The first drink gets you drunk. If you disagree then try to get drunk without it. Make a decision that no matter what happens throughout the day, good or bad, a drink or drug is not an option. There is absolutely no problem that ever arises that a drink or drug cannot make worse.
#8 Be yourself. Everyone has a purpose. We all have been given special gifts and talents. They don’t have to be manufactured, you just have to draw them out. Always remember: no one can make you feel unwanted or inferior without your acceptance and participation. If someone acts negatively towards me, or talks unflatteringly about me, I look at it logically and unemotionally. If you call me a billionaire, does it make me one dollar richer? Another’s opinion of me is irrelevant; it’s my opinion that counts.
#9 Let Go. Live in the day. Stay present. Leave projecting to the clairvoyants and fortune tellers. When we live in the day we are at peace. Most fears are misguided imaginings about situations that have not yet taken place. Most depression comes from focusing on perceived past failures. Live in the day. The next 24 hours. Do the best you can today and leave tomorrow for tomorrow. No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Take a deep breath, suck it up and enjoy life to the fullest.
#10 Keep pressing forward. Higher consciousness is the ultimate goal of recovery, and spiritual development is the only method of obtaining that goal. Think about it. You came from somewhere. You experience this life then you go somewhere else. You appeared. You are here. Then you disappear. That is the Miracle of Life.
The Miracle of recovery is accepting that God interrupted our death for a reason. Maybe that reason is to be an example of what one recovering person can accomplish. Stop living in fear, doubt and limitation. For me, the realization that my Higher Power is closer than my breath and without him I am nothing, has given me the courage to live my destiny. Find a God of your understanding. Know God and Know PEACE.
Truth be told, the holidays are just another day. Every day in recovery is a holiday. Be grateful for being saved from the hell of addiction and enjoy this holiday on earth.