I took a few days off from writing to focus on family and medical.
Surviving the holidays has become second nature to me after years of practice. Based on years of practice and advice from sponsors and others, here is what I do.
- Always have a Big Book with me. There are apps on my phone with the Big Book and 12 by 12 in them. I also have my meditation books on kindle. No one notices whether I am looking at Facebook or if I am reading my Big Book due to a darkened screen and my smoking habit. I can take a “smoke break” away from the group and read my literature for a minute and calm down.
- I have a headset, and speaker tapes with me. On my phone again, I have many AA speaker tapes. I can listen via my headphones while driving to and from, as well as have the headset running while I am attending events. Having Joe and Charlie talk program, or Father Martin in the background with a Chalk talk sometimes helps better than anything else.
- I make absolutely certain that my sponsor is aware of my schedule. Meaning, especially if there is going to be alcohol in any form at the Holiday festivities, my sponsor knows ahead of time. I have my sponsor on speed dial.
- I bone up on the program the days before the holiday. I study that much harder, and I keep my journal handy in my bag. Often, if I can’t get a phone call out, I can on my smoke breaks, write down some things on a smoke break to relieve the pressure.
- If possible, I attend a meeting face to face that day. If not possible, I hit many meetings the week before and the days after. Sometimes knowing that a meeting is 12 hours, 10 minutes and 45 seconds in my future, gives me the peace of mind to survive the next few hours.
- I dress up. One hint my sponsor gave me early on, is that when all hell is breaking loose in my head, to have my outsides not reflect my insides. I dress as cleanly as I can, with appropriate make up and jewelry. I smile, quite a bit, even if on the insides I am dying a little bit. It’s the true nature of ‘fake it till you make it’ in my mind.
- I have an ally or a wingman. Yesterday, Dad noticed that I wasn’t doing too well. By now, he knows well enough when I need to get away. I was past that level, and he suggested that it was time to get home. Nobody argues with an 82 year old patriarch in our family. We bugged out, and I was grateful. I was not stressed by the family events, but my pain levels were rapidly rising.
- I do not keep my sobriety a secret, and it is not a weapon. I don’t make a big deal out of being sober. However, I do make sure that the family and friends I spend time with understand about my alcoholism. I do not ever have the right to dictate to anyone their actions regarding serving alcoholic beverages or even substances I am allergic to. I make a judgement call, based on manners and experience whether or not I will consume anything at the holiday. For example: If in my drinking days, I really loved someone’s buttered rum candies, knowing full well what was in them, of course I won’t be eating that. I also know not to eat chocolate in any form.
- I watch my drink/smoking materials, and do not leave them sit anywhere. Now is the time to relate the one incident in sobriety where I was dosed against my will. I woke up the next day. I had been drinking a diet cola. I had been smoking my own cigarettes. Next thing I knew it was 24 hours later. I called my sponsor immediately. We figured out what had happened, and I never spoke to that person again. I eased myself out of that particular group of people. We decided that since it was an involuntary situation, that my sobriety date was unaffected. However, we also decided to make 100% certain that I was medically okay and that I hit the steps that much harder. Some sick individuals like to “test” the alcoholic. I was dosed with a chemical in tobacco I had left sit while I went to the bathroom. Never again.
- Lastly, sometimes, I give myself permission to say “NO”. There are times when with my sobriety and medical issues that “NO” is the only answer I have for certain events. Pain levels and stress levels rise during these events. I do go to enough events throughout the year, that an occasional “No” is not an insult.
That’s all I have for today. I hope your summer is a safe and happy one. Take care.