There’s no doubt about it:
Christmas and booze go hand in hand. Sometimes, a glass of bubbly can be a welcome relief after a frenetic month. But what happens when you struggle with an alcohol addiction or have a bad relationship with alcohol all year round? After all, it’s difficult to avoid it during a month where a ban on Monday-Friday drinking goes out of the window. Then there’s the dread of the Christmas party where you don’t want to be a spoilsport but drinking just isn’t on the cards. We spoke to 40-year-old Ben (who’s been in recovery for seven years) about how he survives this time of year. (Please note that alcoholics have different relationships to alcohol so this is one experience only and is not reflective of others.)
What Christmas is like in recovery
Before recovery, Christmas was nothing special and I would start drinking early. The alcohol aspect is something you can over-focus on. And Christmas is not just about drinking. But my first Christmas in sobriety was a really good experience and there were so many enjoyable aspects to it such as exchanging presents. I was able to appreciate all the family stuff because before then I had been using alcohol so heavily, I couldn’t. The toughest thing is feeling left out but I have to remind myself that the way I drink is different to other people. For example, if my wife is going to go out for some drinks, she can have a couple of glasses of wine and get a bit tipsy. But while my drinking may start like that, it will end in a place where I don’t want to go. I will end up feeling shameful and do something I wish I hadn’t. I’d certainly behave in a way I wish I didn’t. My drinking is not egg-nog-fun drinking – it’s eight-in- the-morning type drinking.
People don’t care if you’re drinking or not
When you go into situations like office drinks or the Christmas work party and you’re worried that people will assume you’re odd because you’re not drinking, the reality is that they’re more absorbed about having their own fun. They simply don’t care if you’re not drinking. Before, I used to stay until the bitter end and past it. Now, I know when to walk away. It can be fun to knock about with people and anticipate a social event. Before, I only used to think of the bad things that happened on a night out so it’s a relief just looking forward to it. I just have to bear in mind that my experience of drinking is vastly different to theirs.
Support groups over Christmas
It’s all about having the practical tools at your disposal. I go to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and people may think they stop over Christmas but they don’t. Everything involved in recovery doesn’t stop. For anyone struggling, recovery meetings always happen at Christmas because it’s a time that people find sobriety most difficult. And I have a number of meetings to head out to on Christmas Day should I want to stay in touch with recovery.
Where to go for further support
Dr Ian Drever says alcohol use can be ‘disabling and destructive’ to both individuals and those around them so seeking early treatment is vital. He recommends ‘linking in with alcohol treatment in advance of the holiday period in order to anticipate potential problems and to devise strategies for getting through the holiday season in a healthy fashion.’
Link to the original article in it’s entirety, click here: An Alcoholic Tells Us How He Navigates Christmas Parties