Being seated around the holiday table with family is an image that evokes many different associations. The mouth-watering smell of roasted turkey. The warm smile on faces as plates are passed and piled high with delicious foods. The full belly and happy heart of a meal shared with loved ones. However, time spent with family can also be stressful, even painful. For those early in their recovery there may be hurt feelings or bad memories from past holidays. Or you simply are not looking forward to being the odd one out when they’re passing out the eggnog. As a person in recovery you can’t turn to the glass of wine or cocktail to “mellow” you out. So what’s a sober person to do when the going gets tough? We’ll delve into all of this in more detail in the weeks ahead. But for now, here’re the definitive Big Five Basics of celebrating the holidays sober — while keeping your cool.
- Try the bookend technique
Simply put, this is when you do something before you head over to your holiday event and something directly after. Call your sponsor, call a friend, hit a meeting, do a gratitude list, have a coffee and pie “debrief with friends,” or go for a walk/run/trip to the gym. Exercise, meditation, yoga and going to a meeting are all great activities to get you in a good emotional and physical space to deal with stress and other emotions. Having something set before and after will help you to keep the event right sized and remain connected to your recovery throughout.
- Have an Out
When you are new in sobriety it is helpful to develop the practice of knowing your escape routes. So to speak. This imply means you know how to get out of a situation that is beginning to feel uncomfortable — or downright perilous to your sobriety. This can mean giving yourself permission to quietly grab your coat and keys and duck out with no explanation at all or simply having an imaginary appointment or event that you need to leave to take care of. The point is that you practice putting your sobriety and your emotional wellbeing first and know that tapping out and taking your leave is okay to do.
- Sweets and Warm Beverages
First off, please avoid going into these events with low blood sugar. You’ll overeat and you’re more likely to be grumpy. A little snack or hot tea with honey and lemon will go a long way towards cutting down stress and change your spirit animal from Grumpy Cat to this happy little guy. Also, here are some great recipes for non-alcoholic, tasty beverages:
- Mexican Hot Chocolate: Warm, soothing, sweet and perfect
- Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Milk: Calming, cool, superb, refreshing, mic drop.
- Soothing Ginger Tea: Anti-inflammatory, comforting, digestion-aiding miracle beverage.
- Super Spritzers: Add a little of pretty much anything to a half a glass of seltzer for a fizzy treat.
- Remember Your Sober Tools
People in recovery have tools. Meetings are tools. Sponsors and sober friends are tools. Service is a tool. Meditation and gratitude lists are tools. Prayer is a tool. At any given time these holidays, if you start to feel yourself going off the beam try using one of your tools. Examples:
- Be helpful: Volunteer at a soup kitchen or just help clear the dishes and then make sure you compliment everyone who cooked. It’s easy to be helpful and every little act of kindness pays dividends in happiness.
- Pray: Doesn’t matter if you have a strong spiritual practice. It’s not about knowing what you’re praying to or why. It’s the action–the power of ritual — kneeling, bowing your head, closing your eyes — asking for help or for strength or just turning over a person, place or thing you are having trouble accepting lightens your mental and emotional load.
- Make a gratitude list: Seriously. five things, write them down. Text them to a friend. Say them to yourself int he mirror in the bathroom. Gratitude thumps resentment, fear, anger and even sadness.
- Get to a meeting! Have a meeting guide? get one. Traveling somewhere and don’t know where the meetings are? Check the local inter-group. You can find this by googling the name of the place you are going and “AA meetings.” You would be amazed how much fun it can be to visit meetings when traveling and how big a relief it can be to sit in that chair in the midst of holiday stress.
- Don’t Drink
So simple right!? Except it’s not. Stay strong. Use your tools and do your best.