“Ugh. It’s that time of year again.”
That’s what I used to think to myself when the holidays rolled around. I wasn’t looking forward to all to the constant onslaught of drunken guests at holiday parties, hearing bottles popping, and seeing family members who could drink a bit, be happy, and simply keep it at that.
I, on the other hand, always used the holidays as an excuse to drink a lot. I could always be counted on to have one more drink—make that three or four. There was no way I could stop at just one.
A Season of Excuses
Although it didn't look like stress, the pressure of buying presents, going back and forth to family gatherings, sending Christmas cards and packages all add up. The holidays quickly turn into a large source of fatigue and pressure for many people. And unless you're the kind of person who starts preparing months in advance, the holidays usually creep up on us and before we know it, we're rushing from store to store to buy last minute gifts and food in a tizzy.
Once the holiday actually arrived it was relaxation time, which meant drinking time for me. I joined in the festivities and kept on joining them even when the party was over. So often during holidays I was too drunk to remember what happened. Work holiday parties turned into excuses to take shots. I was always hungover on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, and let’s not forget New Year’s Day. Of course, it was a holiday, so even though I was hungover, it meant it was a good excuse to pick up a drink again.
A Lifetime of Sober Experiences
After I got into recovery, I began to notice a change in the way I took in the holidays. I was enjoying myself a lot more at family holiday functions and parties, humming along to holiday music at work, and admiring the decorations. I took trips to New York City to see its spectacle of lights, eat steaming hot Italian food and cannoli in Little Italy, and visit Rockefeller Center. All the things I once took for granted before while I was drinking, began to come in more clearly for me.
It was like looking at the holidays—or the world—with new eyes. I noticed so many good things around me that I never was able to when I was drinking. I woke up on Christmas morning feeling light, happy and ready to visit with friends and family and share in the holiday spirit.
Now that I'm sober, I found that I'm more able enjoy the holidays. The stress of the season also doesn't loom as largely over me, as I'm better equipped mentally to handle them, without alcohol's depressing effects constantly poking into my life. I find that I am more clear-headed, and able to enjoy the moments and cherish them with my family in a healthy way rather than in a self-destructive way.
To me, it’s now a time to relax, reflect and rejuvenate in the holiday spirit as we think about the coming year and spending time with our families and enjoying their presence. Even as the stresses do come up, I am now in a better place to deal with them with a clear mind and patience, and to be able to say “no” to the things that cause me to overextend myself. As this holiday season comes to a close, remember the real reasons that we celebrate them—not for the excess of gluttony, food, alcohol or presents, but as a time to celebrate our loved ones and be thankful for all that we have—especially our sobriety.