Addiction and the Festive Season

The Bermuda Triangle: It’s a forbidding, often terrifying, body of water where ships sail in, but they don’t always sail out. For those with chemical dependency issues, Christmas and New Year’s can be our own Bermuda Triangle. The holidays can take down a lot of people in recovery, but you don’t have to be one of them:


1. You don’t have to go.

There are tons of holiday parties, work parties, family parties, and so on. If this is your first year sober, you are under no obligation to attend any of them. If people drink a lot at those parties, chances are they won’t even notice you weren’t there! We might tell ourselves, “I’m just going to the party for a few minutes.” What we really mean is, “Somebody’s going to offer me a drink, and I’ll drink it, and I can just blame it on the party, not on myself.” Just don’t go.


2. If you have to go, have a way home.

If you absolutely have to attend a holiday function… have your own means of escape lined up. Go in your own car. Don’t catch a ride with someone else who might want to stay longer, and keep on drinking, when you’re ready—and actually need—to leave. If there’s public transportation, know the schedule.


3. Get a beverage as soon as you arrive and don’t let go.

Go to the bar and get a drink, and make sure it’s non-alcoholic. Watch the bartender carefully. It’s really loud and he might have heard you say “rum and Coke” when all you said was Coke. Once you get the drink—whether it’s soda, soda water, or just plain water—carry it around with you at all times. People are less likely to pressure you into a drink, or demand to know why you’re not drinking if you’re actually holding a drink. If you put the cup down on the table, even for a split second, it’s no longer your drink. You must go back to the bar and start over.

It’s easy to pick up the wrong drink “accidentally on purpose,” and there you are with someone else’s alcoholic beverage instead of the drink you just put down. Even if you never lost eye contact with your drink, it’s still not yours once you put it down and take your hand away from it. Go back to the bar and get another alcohol-free beverage.


4. Have a simple answer.

If someone asks you why you are not drinking, you do not have to explain that you have 27 days in Alcoholics Anonymous, that you are on Step 2, and that you call your sponsor every day. A simple answer, like, “I just don’t feel like it tonight,” is sufficient. You do not have to share your life story with someone to justify the fact that you are not drinking—unless, of course, you want to. You get to choose who you share your story with and there’s an appropriate time, place, and audience for everything.


5. Take off the label.

If you take the label off the bottle of fine wine or scotch, it’s just plain old alcohol. Just as we take the label off bottles of alcohol, we can also take the label off holidays. Remember that another name for Christmas is…Thursday. You wouldn’t drink or use on any other Thursday now that you’re in recovery, would you? Of course not. So why would you drink on this Thursday?

Do you know what alcoholics call New Year’s Eve? Amateur night. This New Year’s Eve, go to a meeting early in the day and then go home. Curl up with a good book, your cat, or your loved one, and leave the drinking, drunk driving arrests, mug shots, and misery to everyone else.


6. Just take it a day at a time.

That’s sound advice not just for this time of year, but for all year long. If you do all of the above, your chances are excellent that by January 1st, you’ll be bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and sober as a judge.

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