Surviving the Holidays

For an addict, getting through this time of year can be particularly rough. In some places, the AA chapter will hold special meetings on Christmas and New Year’s for this exact reason. It feels like everywhere you look, people are drinking, and you miss that social aspect of it. But, it’s important to remember that, for us, drinking became about something completely different than just fun socializing a long time ago. And that we must stay sober to stay happy.

It’s also kind of a stressful time of year, with all the activity going on and all the things that need to get done. But, also remind yourself that while in the moment it might feel like alcohol eases your stress, it really doesn’t ease anything at all, and you will only feel more stressed and anxious if you drink.

I haven’t done a safe coping strategy in a long time (sorry!). I think one that is fitting right now is:

Think of the consequences. Really see the impact for tomorrow, next week, next year.

You might think you can have a drink or two over the holidays, just to celebrate. But, in reality, it’s dangerous for you to even consider taking one sip. This is how you start down that slippery slope into making yourself think a little more is ok. Then just a little more. Then a little more. Until you’re right back where you started. Which I think we can all agree is not somewhere we ever want to go again.

Focus on your feelings, and work through them. Resist the urge to “drink them away.” If you’re feeling stressed with the amount of things you have to do, really look at your to-do list and cut out the non-essential items. Don’t worry about disappointing people or letting someone down. Chances are, you won’t. And you’re health and sanity are far more important.

If you’re feeling down emotionally, seek out other people. If you don’t have anyone in your life that you can turn to, then get to a meeting. There you will find solace. Being alone this time of year can be dangerous. Find ways to interact with people, and find things to do that will bring you joy.

We trick ourselves into feeling like this time of year means more, or is more special, than the rest of the year. But really, it’s no different than the other months out of the year. Stop putting pressure on yourself to make the time of year perfect, and just try to relax and enjoy it. Every day of your life is meaningful and special, not only these last few days of the year.

Make special plans for next year. Think of all the fun things you will do. Think of all that you will be able to accomplish. Think of how much better you can make your new year, than your last year. Look toward the new year with happiness and confidence, instead of fearing or dreading it.

Happy holidays, and be safe.

Surviving and Thriving

I haven’t written in ages! I’m so sorry. Part of the reason is that this time of year is so incredibly busy, with parties, and dinners, and gifts to wrap, and gifts to send, and a big pile of cards to address.

The other reason is that I just had my third foot surgery. The bone structure in my feet leaves a lot to be desired. I had both feet operated on, but was warned I might need to have the left one operated on again sometime. It had started causing me some pain again, and we met our insurance deductible for the year, so I went for it.

The whole premise of surgery worried me. Not just being put under anesthesia and being cut open and being in pain and recovering from it forever. But also, I was going to be prescribed a narcotic pain killer. Would I take it? What would happen if I did? What did this mean for me, a recovering alcoholic?

I was afraid it would trigger something inside of me. The Reality-is-Best-Dealt-With-Under-the-Influence side of me I had fought so hard to get rid of. I was also afraid that all the sitting around and boredom would also trigger something inside of me.

I took the medication. I was in an incredible amount of pain the first few days, and I didn’t know how else to deal with it.

And it was fine. I didn’t at all like how the medication made me feel. It made it hard for me to eat and sleep, two things I need desperately to do right now. And when I did sleep, it gave me insane nightmares. And during the day, I felt dizzy, loopy, spacey, just uncomfortable. I was relieved when I could take Aleve and get by. And it still took a few days for the loopiness to subside.

One of my counselors in rehab said generally people my age don’t give up one addiction and find another. Young people often do, they are willing to try a variety of different things. But by the time you’re in your 30s or 40s, you have found your “substance of choice” and are unlikely to turn to something else. I’m so glad this is the case for me, and it’s a weight off my mind to know.

Though I would urge you to tread very carefully if you’re put in the same situation. Because there is always that chance when you are an addict to become addicted to just about anything. So, it’s important to be aware of that and mindful of how you feel on any substance. And if prescription medications are your substance of choice, then obviously you need to be even more careful, and avoid them completely if possible.

I find through this experience that I’ve come a very long way from the person I used to be. Back in the day, this might have been a huge issue for me. But, not only do I not want alcohol at all anymore, but I’m still mindful enough of my addiction to be careful what I put in my body. I learned many things about myself and about addiction through my experience in rehab, and I have seen that I can put that knowledge to use in my everyday life.

I feel stronger now than ever. I can make the right choices. I’m happier being sober. This happiness can be the rest of my life, instead of the misery I was feeling this time last year. And that feels amazing.