The holiday season is upon us. A time for family, food, togetherness and alcohol. Lots of alcohol. For people in early recovery, this can be a time of anxiety, worry and an overwhelming sense of what is at stake. “Just because we’re drinking doesn’t mean you have to.” “No one will be that drunk.” “Just pretend like it’s not there.” Pretend like it’s not there? Seriously? My disease is like a magnet for drawing me towards things that fuel failure. Pretending like it isn’t there is like trying to ignore the smoke detector as it continuously beeps, filling any room within 40 feet of it. So what do we do? How we do get through these next months and come out the other side still clean? Here is my experience.
When holidays come around and my family begins to make plans of gathering, I opt out. Yup- I just don’t go. The first few years in recovery my immediate family told everyone I had to work, I was sick, or was with friends at their family functions. As I got more confident in my recovery, I had no problem letting anyone who asked know that my recovery, and staying clean, came first. Holiday or not. I started planning and attending holiday celebrations with my friends I had made in recovery. People that were just like me and were also weary of being around family and alcohol. We leaned on each other and formed our own family where everyone was welcome.
I set boundaries with my parents, who at first, couldn’t understand why I wasn’t coming home for thanksgiving or Christmas. I learned I didn’t have to explain it to someone who didn’t understand or agree with my choice. After all, it was just that- MY choice. In active addiction I didn’t get to make many choices. Drugs and Alcohol robbed me of my own choices. I had to do the right thing for myself. I could no longer minimize the severity of addiction, and choosing to stay away was always the safer option.
When I attend family functions today, I always drive separate. I make sure that I have a way out when and if I need to. I stay in touch with my support network as well as provide support for others. Maybe I’ll just come for dinner, or for a few hours in the morning. I limit my time to prevent my disease from convincing me that maybe I can have just one. As if “just one” even exists for addicts. Some years I’ve even brought a friend and then I’d go celebrate with him or her and their own family. That’s what recovery is about- helping each other. Holding each other up and reminding ourselves we are worth it. So let this holiday season be one of gratitude and joy with the family you choose.