Christmas Is Coming (Guest Post)

Sunday 18 Dec, 2016, 8:49am by Mrs D 9 comments

This guest post comes from the lovely and very wise Suzy Morrison who works in the addiction sector and has many years in recovery herself. She shared her ‘Sober Story’ with us here, and participated in an ‘Ask An Expert’ post which you can see here. This is her very pertinent take on how to survive the upcoming  Silly Season sober.

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Christmas is coming. It’s one of those ‘emotional anniversary’ times. You know, when those memories, conscious or otherwise, of what we did or didn’t do at previous Christmas parties and/or family festivities begin to make themselves known. Add in to the mix the relationships that may have been affected during the year due to unskilful behaviour … and hurt feelings can come sharply into focus. There are also twinges or sledgehammers of shame and resentment that go with the territory.

And then there is New Years’ Eve. Seeing in the New Year. People who would describe themselves as someone who ‘doesn’t drink’ will often be imbibing at this time of year. Aunty Betty is on the sherry. The alcohol is flowing and the subtle or unsubtle pressure is on to be part of the festivities. “Come on, have a drink, surely one won’t hurt?” “You’ve done so well this year and now it’s time to celebrate and welcome in the new.” “C’mon, get over yourself.”

Or another scenario could be where people are making a point of not drinking in front of us, thereby contributing to our feelings of being ‘different’. Why don’t they understand us???

We can’t expect others – family included – to understand the particular challenges we may be facing at this time of year. Or at any other time of year for that matter. It’s not possible for people who haven’t been where we have been to ‘get’ us. It is not possible for them to understand what it is like to come to terms with the reality of being dependant on alcohol and/or other drugs … and the feelings that go with it. They haven’t experienced the dawning realisation that the alcohol that used to be our friend in times of need – at times of stress or celebration – is no longer working. They don’t understand the obsession, the fear of living without it, the need to learn a new way of managing emotions, and the fight to not pick up that first drink.

It is not possible for them to understand how difficult it is initially - day by day, then week by week, then month by month – choosing not to use, one day at a time, despite the cravings. The unrealistic expectation that others understand our experience can lead to misunderstanding and frustrations in family situations.

But it is not possible for them to understand, and that’s okay. They can support us in other ways.

Family relationships may have been undergoing repair since the drinking has stopped, and since we’ve been practicing  new skills on how to live well without partaking of any mood altering substances. Just because we’ve stopped using alcohol or whatever, doesn’t mean we are sorted. It’s a process. It can still be really tricky as we gather together for ‘emotional’ events such as these.

As one of my favourite teachers, Ram Das, says “if you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family’.

It’s important to be patient and kind with ourselves and others. And it’s so important to stay connected to the people who do ‘get’ us – either online, face to face, or via a phone call or text message. Get a plan in place before you face into the festivities. Run it past one of your recovering friends. Ask someone to be at the end of the phone or text on the day as a check in, a grounding, a touch stone, a reality check. It’s a way of taking care of the feelings. Self-care in action.

You are okay.

If this is your first Christmas and New Year in recovery – welcome. I am here to tell you that you can get through this time well … the tears and laughter, the food overload, the ‘family stuff’, the heightened emotions without picking up (and even possibly enjoy some of it).

There are others here online who will back me up on this. Stay close to the people who support you, who ‘get’ you.

It’s a ‘we’ thing.

9 comments

  1. Christmas was lovely with 2 one year old grandchildren running around! Totally present, aware and prepared! No stress putting out a full buffet for the family and having everything wrapped before Christmas Eve! For 20 years I’ve been up wrapping and drinking all night only to have the joy of Christmas morning dulled by a hangover. New Years Eve was easy…never been a fan. 1 year of sobriety is a couple weeks away and rarely even think of a drink in a meaningful way. I dismiss the thought with a No Way!!! Drinking was sooo much work… Now I can look ahead with optimism. Hang in there everyone!

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  2. Thank you for a very instructive posting. I drank a few days ago for the first time since 2009…I am really beating myself up over it and feel like I have ruined my family’s Christmas…your words provide hope.

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  3. I am sitting here wondering if I should quit today . . . 5 days before Christmas or start fresh on 1-1-17. I honestly can’t image the holidays and “family gatherings” without some red wine to relax me. But as I threw away 5 bottles of wine, one for each of the past 5 nights, I’m thinking I should quit now! Prayers and support is what I need.

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  4. Thanks so much for this, it is brilliant advice!!! This will be my first sober Christmas in 24 years (apart from being pregnant) and we are all at my sisters so my plan is to drive, keep the kids entertained and be chief dog walker after lunch to give myself some time out!! 3 things I’ve never done at Christmas because normally I’m just sat drinking and feeling blah!!!! It feels like a NEW Christmas for me which is lovely at my age! (41)!!! Thanks for the post xxxxx

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  5. So helpful and validating. It has removed my fear of facing family festivities not drinking. Good to simply hear it is impossible for them to understand and I am okay!

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  6. It’s my first Christmas in recovery and I’m ready ! Thanks for a beautiful insightful post , love the Ram Das quote it is so very very true !!

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  7. Thank you Suzy, and Ilove your Ram Das quote, so very true! I am going into my third Christmas/New Year and one thing I would like to add here is that even at the first one I was so pleaseantly surprised to find how much I loved it. I could see and feel the upsides to it immediately. We are way less stressed. All the preparations and hosting on the day seem effortless in comparism to before. We are so present, we have time to really listen to our families and engage properly, not half heartedly or in a distracted way. NOthing about the day is about the next drink. It is for them, to a degree, but that’s normal so isn’t a bother. The biggest reward is to feel so happy at the end of the day that you’ve been your best self, have no regrets, and you know that your family are proud and impressed. Happy Christmas xo

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  8. That’s such a helpful, down to earth, sensible post Suzy. It feels like coming home, reading that. Thank you so much.

    This is my first Christmas / New Year free of alcohol. I’m looking forward to it. I won’t be doing some of the things I would normally do, but I am planning to do other things in their place.

    I’m so grateful for this place and the people I have met here. It is my touchstone, as you say.

    Thanks again.

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