Last year at this time I found every good excuse to make every night Friday night. After all, it’s the holidays! Holiday Shopping? A nice IPA with lunch. Trimming the Christmas tree? Well, that calls for some adult egg nog or spiked cider! Listening to Christmas music by a fire? Sounds like I need a holiday cocktail… Manhattans on date night, dirty martinis with the ladies… Anyway, you get the idea. It wasn’t a holiDAY it was a SEASON and the season was the reason for the drinkin’.
I started to dread events. I knew I would overdo despite all my best intentions going into it trying to moderate. I didn’t know how to abstain and the idea of that made me really sad. I didn’t feel like any nice scene was complete without a drink in my hand to make it perfect. I bought in to all the marketing hype that alcohol is necessary for a good time. Even when I did successfully moderate by my standards, it was too much.
I spent so much of my time trying to catch up. I needed alcohol as my social lubricant and I used social events as an excuse to drink. I started to hate myself. I felt like I was on a merry round of self loathing. I would sometimes wake up at 3am, immediately filled with dread. I would lay there on my sweat drenched pillow taking a mental inventory of the night before. I would search my memory for details, with my hands shaking, head pounding, chest aching and wonder why? Why did I do it again? At what point in the evening did I decide to have that one drink too many?
Since the last holiday season was a huge reason I decided to give up alcohol all together before I really had a problem (One might think reading this that I obviously did have a problem, but I wasn’t so sure. I felt like I was just keeping up with the crowd) I’m spending a lot of time comparing this year to last. Last year was the first year I didn’t do Christmas cards in a very long time. I just couldn’t get it together in time to do it. When you’re spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from drinking it makes it hard to have time for the other things in life.
This year I ordered my Christmas cards on Black Friday. I am so on top of it! Things I dreaded in the past like our advent calendar (where my kids have developed high expectations) and that mischievous elf that needs to move around every night, I’m totally looking forward to this year.
I love that my cider and eggnog will be a treat, unspoiled by the taste of liquor and I love that my kids can share whatever I’m drinking with me. I enjoy a nice kombucha in a pretty glass but I know that’s not what makes the evening perfect. It’s being present for all this amazing time I’m getting to make magical while my kids are still young. It’s long dark hours snuggled up on the couch in Christmas jammies with my family, watching our favorite holiday movies. It’s meditating on the sparkling lights on the tree and reading classic holiday stories to my kids. All those things are what makes an evening perfect. And I must add, waking up hangover free after a full night’s sleep never, ever gets old.
Now have more, authentic fun than before. I laugh harder, feel more joy, and I also experience my anxiety, disappointment and pain without numbing so I can actually process it and let it go.
It’s a glorious feeling to be free. Sobriety is the best gift I can give myself for Christmas. This year of self discovery and growth has been my best year yet. I have more self confidence, love and acceptance than I can ever remember having. This leads me to stand up for myself. I am no longer left feeling like a shrinking violet.
This isn’t to say it hasn’t been hard. Any major life change and habit change is difficult. At times it’s been so crushingly hard that all I could do was hide on the bathroom floor and text a friend or go to bed. Those days and feelings always ended and I learned that feeling bad isn’t wrong and it’s not necessarily an emergency. I don’t need to quickly cover it up. There’s a huge amount of people, within my friends and family and also within the greater recovery community online, that are available to help.
And you know what? I have yet to wake up at 3am full of self loathing and regret that I am sober.
I hope these holidays find you appreciating the small joys that this magical season can bring. Happy Holidays.
Disclaimer: I didn’t drink every day. I didn’t always drink excessively. I often had a glass of wine with dinner and that was it. But I too often engaged in “risky drinking” that left me feeling sick. Everyone has a different relationship with alcohol. I feel lucky that I ended mine before it was much harder to do so.