I remember so well the first year of sobriety and going through “the holidays” sober for the first time in my adult life. I was given some practical advice that has served me well over the years. We may end up in some uncomfortable, if not agonizing, situations and the last thing we want to do is to compound our troubles by adding alcohol.
1. If you don’t want to go or aren’t spiritually ready to go, you really don’t have to go. It may seem like the world would end if you weren’t there, but I can assure you, it won’t.
2. The test before going into any iffy social situation is in the big book on pages 101 – 102:
…ask yourself on each occasion, “Have I any good social, business, or personal reason for going to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such places?” If you answer these questions satisfactorily, you need have no apprehension. Go or stay away, whichever seems best. But be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and that your motive in going is thoroughly good. Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it. But if you are shaky, you had better work with another alcoholic instead!
3. Never go anywhere you cannot leave. Seriously. If the family is loading into the car to go to Aunt Charlene’s, get into your own car and follow along. Have your own ride, your own keys, your own way to leave whenever you want/need to. Not only does this give you the ability to leave on a moment’s notice without needing to cajole others into leaving, but it gives you the feeling of assurance that you are truly not stuck there. You can leave.
4. Get a non-alcoholic drink in your hand and leave it there. Try to get something that doesn’t look like everyone else’s drink. Coffee or a cola are usually good. A club soda with lime may be delicious, but may look just like a “real” drink and you may pick up the wrong drink and take a huge swig before you know what happened. (This has happened to me, and I have had to take strange quick trips to the bathroom with a mouthful that I need to spit out.) Honestly, you really need to spit it out. If it is in your hand, you always know it is yours.
5. Most people will not even notice that you aren’t drinking. No long explanations are necessary. Usually a simple “no” works when someone offers a drink. Most sober alcoholics have their own favorite answer when pressed, “I’m not drinking today,” or “I’ve had enough,” or even the ridiculous “No thanks, I break out when I drink.” At this point in my sobriety, if pressed, I just say “I don’t drink.” “No, not at all, ever.” Even when it is time for the toast, a glass of water works just fine.
6. Most people can’t tell a phony smile from a real one. A smile has been proven to actually improve the way you feel. Stick one on your face, no matter how much it hurts!
7. Most cities have AA groups in clubs that are open 24 hours on big holidays. They usually have food, and at least a few souls around who are happy to help someone who is hurting.
8. Enjoy to the best of your ability. My best holidays have been the sober ones. I can’t think back to a drunken holiday without bad memories and embarrassment. The sober holidays have been good. Some of the early ones, when my kids were not with me, were particularly memorable. Spending the day with other AA members in similar circumstances. Making the best of the day and helping others. We have the ability to touch others in a way that is truly unusual.
You can do it! You will be glad you did.