Recovery First, Even at Christmas Time

Post Reply
Karla
Posts: 16
Joined: Wed Jul 31, 2019 10:10 am

Recovery First, Even at Christmas Time

Post by Karla » Fri Dec 20, 2019 8:36 pm

At this time of year, we tend to rush around. Last minute shopping, weeks of food and goodie preparations, perhaps some church obligations or services, and work. Somewhere in there, if we are sober, we may also continue to try to attend meetings and squeeze recovery in.
It becomes really easy for me to feel too busy to run to a meeting, or too tired to do any reading, or exhausted at the thought of finding the time to meet with my sponsor. I have gift buying to do, holiday gatherings to attend, gift wrapping, baking, cooking, and working (extra to pay for all the additional things I need to pay for over the holidays). Before I know it, nearly every single minute of every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas seems accounted for and planned out. When am I going to have time to focus on recovery? How am I going to make sure that I don't drink over the holidays?
I have been sober from alcohol for just over 6 years now. This time of year, I definitely miss alcohol. I miss the warm brandy snifter beside me while I decorate or bake. I miss the parties with all of the mulled wine and fancy cocktails. But that's about where my euphoric recall ends. I can easily fast forward and realize that a single snifter of brandy could and would start the whole alcoholism train rolling again.
That was a horrible experience, and I don't plan on repeating it.
Why, then, is it easier during these busy times to rest on my laurels? To try to skate through because i have too much else to do? I think that it's natural that things get pushed aside, neglected, and forgotten when I am spread too thin. This is when it is absolutely imperative for me to ramp up my recovery activities, not let them fall away.
Holidays are stressful. For us in new recovery, this can include seeing people that may still be quite upset and unforgiving of your past. You may feel pressure to act/look/be perfect to "show them" how well you are doing. It is often a time of loneliness, sometimes even when you are with a group of people you can still feel alone. If you are faced with boatloads of flowing alcohol at such events, that can cause serious cravings and increased stress.
For us that have been sober from our drug of choice for some time, we may take comfort in how much time has passed since our last use, and we may relax our recovery related activities. There is danger in that, however. Cravings and desires can and do pop up at the strangest times. I recall last Christmas, my entire family attended a play at one of the theatre's in Minneapolis. I had been sober from alcohol for more than five years. I had been working extra shifts and not doing as much recovery work as usual. Walking into the theatre, the smell hit me. Lovely warm red wine with a mix of rich coffee filled the air. I had forgotten that they serve alcohol at the theatre. I was not prepared for it. Although I did not act on it, the thought of alcohol was on my mind nearly constantly during the show. The others around me were sipping their drinks. I felt a sense of sadness or lacking, in that I was not able to partake. I felt a bit sorry for myself and that it was unfair. I was a little jealous. I had some mild cravings, but the worst part was that my mind kept trying to convince myself that "just one, just this once" would be OK. My real brain had to take over these thoughts quite frequently and remind myself of what happens to me when I drink. If there is a next time for me, I will die. I firmly believe that. That's how powerful addiction is.
I made it through the evening unscathed. I did some self-reflection and talking to other people. I realized I had backed off on some of my meetings, mainly because I was hosting Christmas and I wanted everything to be perfect. I let my recovery take a back seat. Recovery just, for a couple of weeks, was not a main priority. This is why the cravings hit and why the "stinking thinking" with the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.
As a dear friend frequently says, we need to fit our life around recovery, not fitting our recovery into our life. Recovery IS my life. I had been viewing it the wrong way - I had been thinking "how in the world am I going to fit recovery into my busy life?" Instead, I should have been figuring out how to fit things around recovery.
This year, if I have a meeting planned, I go. If I set up a meeting with my sponsor, or a sponsee, or a call with someone who needs some encouragement - I attend to those things first. The other stuff involved in preparing for Christmas might have to wait or not get done. What's wrong with gift cards for a couple people on my list? What if I only make 2 kinds of cookies instead of 20, or (gasp) maybe I make none! What happens is I lower my expectations, I realize there is no need for a fruitless attempt at perfection, as it will never be perfect. Something is always going to go wrong or be missed or forgotten. But, anything related to the season that I forget or miss BECAUSE I am attending to my recovery is well worth it. So far, just some very minimal wistful thoughts of alcohol, but nothing that sticks or is pervasive.
The brutal and harsh reality is that If I am dead, the holiday season doesn't matter to me.
Stay alert and alive out there, people! And fit the rest of your life AROUND your recovery.
As always, I welcome comments and dialogue.
Karla

Post Reply