The UK is a nation that celebrates with alcohol through the year: weddings, birthdays, new jobs, promotions, you name it and we can find a reason to raise a glass or 3 to it. Christmas, of course, is way up there on the list of reasons for celebration. Some will be looking forward to it and some will be dreading it, but it will happen, and so let’s focus on making the most of it.
More than at any other time of year we are shown the happy, smiley image of Alcohol with constant TV adverts and bill boards 20 feet high. We buy far too much food and drink believing that showing good will to all involves force feeding ourselves and others as if eating and drinking were going out of fashion. For many people overindulging is temporary for those few days, but for others, there is no ‘off’ switch, there is an addiction to alcohol, and the drinking continues, unless you are in Recovery.
If you are in Recovery then the pressures are obvious and also hidden. As you know the source of your addiction is all around you with ‘jingle’ bells on and it’s not just alcohol in glasses to avoid: mince pies, Christmas puddings, Christmas cake, trifles, chocolate liqueurs, sauces and so it goes on. Unless you buy your own or see the wrapper you just don’t know what is OK to eat and you don’t want to draw attention to yourself by asking. It’s obvious that being abstinent from alcohol during Christmas and the New Year, to avoid relapse, takes living in a state of high alert. And all this focus and strength and grit and determination has to be sustained during and through and after the holidays because there is a real danger that when the guard is down, when the rest of the world has gone back to everyday life, relapse can occur. Even those that have a long term sobriety can crumble if not sharply focussed as the urge to drink can still be strong in these situations.
Christmas and New Year can be such lonely periods too. People on the fringes feeling that everyone else is happy and contented, everyone else’s life is better. But this is far from the truth. If you think about it we are all of us alone really so we are all together in that. It’s hard to motivate yourself when you are feeling like this but try and seek out groups that understand and share your emotions and meet or message to help each other. Look online for support and friendship, there are many such groups. Volunteer for a good cause maybe? The best way of feeling valued is to help others by being useful in some way. There are also Recovery Apps to use when you feel you need to. Stay in touch with people that empathise and can offer you advice. Try and keep to your routines, the ones that keep you well and strong. Make the time, you deserve good health and wellness.
If you are going to be with others over the holidays then, whenever you can, take yourself out of situations where temptation is strongest. Have a rehearsed line or two ready for persistent people offering you drinks. I’m driving. I’ve got an early start in the morning. What ever you decide works best for you, use it confidently, and then don’t give them any gap to fill by asking them something else. Lean on sober friends when you need to, they will help you without questions. If being around people more than usual starts to get to you then take a break. A free and freeing thing to do is to go for a walk. Get out in Nature, our greatest healer (Read my Nature blog to learn how it does). Create new Christmas traditions that don’t involve alcohol. Make them as enjoyable as you can so that you feel happier each time you are involved in them. If you have a sponsor obviously they will be there for you. Talk to people that you trust, including professionals, share your thoughts and fears, explain how you feel and let them support you.
Understand that you are not weird or odd for choosing not to drink just as a Sikh person is not weird for following their religion and abstinence from alcohol too. There are millions of Sikhs in the world and millions of other people that don’t drink. It’s a choice and it’s your choice for all good reasons. Most of all believe that you can enjoy yourself despite this challenge. You can choose to have a more positive outlook, more positive thoughts, a more positive image when you look in the mirror. Decide that you will be fine through this Christmas period and know that it doesn’t take alcohol to do that. You can live your life and feel good, better, great. You can. You are in control of everything you do, say and think, so choose wisely. Know that you’re amazing, you’re being your own best friend, you are doing this, you ARE making those changes that create a much healthier and more fulfilling life for yourself and all who love you. So enjoy Christmas your way, your new way.