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Sobriety During the Holidays

Updated: Jan 5

Have you ever thought about what it's like for a recovering addict during the festive season? With support, kindness and love we can all survive the holidays together.

It's party time! The following has nothing to do with being against drinking at the holidays or drinking on any day. No judgement against booze or catching a buzz at all. I am against driving drunk as peoples' lives are at risk. I lost someone I loved by a drunk driver when I was in my teens. This is not about judging people who can, and do drink. I have been one of them. Though I've pretty much given up much of my drinking days, I still love going to parties, socializing and having fun with friends. I also enjoy hanging out at a bar especially when there is live music. This is not about any of that. What this IS about is being mindful and having compassion for those people around us that cannot or wish not to drink, and the judgement many people place upon them. Especially those in the fragile days of early recovery. The highest relapse rate of the year is between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve. And for some, relapse can mean death. With the help of a few of my recovering friends, our aim here is to raise awareness of how it feels in these festive times whilst everyone is partying. And to be more mindful to those people who may be struggling not to drink for whatever the reason. The pressure, and the temptation can be excruciating for some. There are many people battling addictions of all sorts. They love their family and friends, they love attending gatherings, being with people in normal social settings. Many of them continue to attend parties with the people they love because they truly want to be there, they want very much to be included and share in the joy of the season just like you.


Some people may stop drinking simply to support someone else by remaining sober with them like I did, or perhaps they are an athlete that cannot drink as it affects their performance, others may remove booze from their lives for health issues and find they feel better, and some simply do not drink to be more present for life in general.


For me, the last time I was inebriated was February 24, 2020. I'm not an addict nor am I an alcoholic and my journey began simply to support a loved one. I even made sober bars for us at the holidays, yes they can be fun! (Pictured below).

I'm one of the lucky ones that has an 'off button'. This time, the longer I stayed sober, the less the booze meant to me. The main drawback for me is it disrupts my sleep and causes depression (after all, it is a depressant). Now I am nearly four years down the road and some things are better in my world without booze and some things are ever evolving, and lonely. 


I've attended several parties recently leading up to the holidays, as many of us do. A couple weeks ago at one of these parties, a friend sat next to me whilst I was happily chatting to people and drinking my fizzy water and lime enjoying the evening. This friend hit me with a super insensitive comment. She said, "you were a lot more fun when you were drunk and stoned". First I felt shock, and then the hurt and sadness set in....could she be right? Maybe she was. That's just something I will have to deal with myself. Either way, I didn't reply. And in my opinion, it was not something one should say to a friend. I then felt an avalanche of compassion and empathy for all the struggling alcoholics that have to stay sober to stay alive, because otherwise they will die of this disease. Although I was hurt by her words, I was relieved she was saying this to me rather someone who may have been in early recovery, as her insensitivity may have tipped them over the edge into a relapse.  Some people don't have the choice, for them it's a matter of life and death. I've seen it first hand. Getting and staying sober is not easy. People that haven't experienced watching someone they love struggle with the deep pain of navigating sobriety, don't know what a difficult task it is. And for a struggling addict... "You are always the same distance from the ditch."


Luckily there are recovery meetings for those fighting for their lives and for those who wish to remain sober-it's a lifelong journey. The meetings work because the opposite of addiction is connection. In recovery, there is no judgement. Only love, support and compassion. People struggling to stay sober for one more day. They celebrate triumphant moments of sobriety birthdays for those who have remained clean. And they support those who have fallen off the wagon and had to start again at day one. In the rooms of recovery there lives a lot of compassion, empathy and the deepest love for one another. It's extraordinary to be a part of this world. Someone I used to know said it was like being a member of an elite club.


I began attending Alanon meetings to support someone who was in my life. Now I attend, participate and lead Refuge Recovery meetings for myself. Refuge Recovery is a Buddhist oriented non theistic recovery program complete with a group guided mediation at the beginning of each meeting. I also attend one weekly twelve step meeting for those of us in the music industry. I learn so much from the others in all the meetings I attend. In my music industry meeting, the music thread that weaves us together is a beautiful thing. The struggle of staying sober in the music industry is real. Musicians have different challenges than some other recovering addicts. As their jobs are surrounded by booze, and drugs. And when you're in a band, especially touring and living with the other members, it's like a marriage or your (other) family.  Imagine trying to stay clean and your entire family are addicts! There is an organization in Detroit called, Passenger Recovery. They help recovering touring musicians by picking them up after the gig and taking them to a clean green room so they don't need to be surrounded by all the temptations of booze and drugs, therefore lessening the chance of relapse. 


We must all find our own way, our own path in this life. Embrace and respect everyone's decision to do what is right for them. We still all want to be included. I've met some amazingly strong, resilient, human beings in meetings struggling to stay clean and sober - simply to stay alive. Some are lucky to have friends or family members supporting them through the tough times, some have only the meetings for support. If you are one of the lucky ones with someone supporting you along the way, don't forget to appreciate and cherish those wonderful people that stay through it all. Hold them close, don't push them away, they only have your health and best interest in mind. Relapses are difficult to witness. Alcoholism is a selfish disease. Show gratitude to those that continue to show up. It's beyond rough for them too. That's what true love is and THAT is what it's all about! 


Please remember....If you have a friend or a family member that may be struggling with sobriety this holiday season, please be mindful of your words. Try to be respectful and supportive of their journey. And PLEASE, do not tell them that they are more fun drunk!


My point of view on this is that of a non addict/alcoholic, so I've asked a few dear recovering friends that are now part of my recovery family if they would like to share their experiences on what the holidays are like from a recovering addicts' POV, here's what they said...

~ Steve N / Refuge Recovery... "The emotional energy charge that the holiday season would bring to my central nervous system was always so overwhelming, I would brace myself for what could possibly go wrong from numbing the massive anxiety and shame of unworthiness the holidays would bring as the year was fastly coming to an end.  The focus on family and friends and connection in general, magnified my deep isolation and separateness from what was perceived as "normal" society.  As I head into my third year of recovery, I have come to realize the connection I have turned to from within and shared with all the people in my life, I'm more empowered to this energy around the holidays.  I see it as an opportunity to deepen my connections to family.  I have the courage to reach out to others for support or to be of support in a time of year where many are feeling so vulnerable. To observe and not participate in drinking with others is so liberating.  A victory to evolve from a past that was misunderstood until investigated through recovery.  Yes there are times when I'm reminded of a good memory of a holiday celebration but knowing my experience is dependent on my relationship to that experience, grounds me in the moment for desire and craving that can be held with compassion of a life once lived.  I'm curious to find out my experience of the holidays as my connection to myself and family continue to grows." 

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~ Cece V ... Read it to the tune of “It’s a Marshmellow world in December” by Dean Martin -

“It’s a cocktail world in December.

And every event is covered in booze,

It’s a time for drinks and glasses to clink,

In December it’s a cocktail world.

Those cocktail drinkers be so friendly

They all want to offer you hugs,

Eventually, they break out the bud and a whole slew of other drugs.

If you want to stay sober in December, you best just stick with your kind. Find a zoom room or a live meeting where recovery is top of our minds”

Walking the path of recovery during December is like playing frogger except instead of dodging traffic I feel like I am dodging cocktail parties and wasted people offering alcohol, blow, weed and unsolicited comments about how they view my sobriety.

It is a challenge to go out to a show because wasted people everywhere want to hug you and I just want to hibernate on a zoom meeting filled with recovering addicts who get me. 🩷

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~ Christopher Tait / Electric Six - Passenger Recovery - Belle Ghoul ...

"I’d love to say the holidays have been easier since I got sober (Just like I’d love to pin my alcoholism on rock and roll. Didn’t work that way), but the truth is they continue to feel like a roller coaster. 


When I was using, the holidays were a difficult time because over the years I’d removed myself from everyone I loved. And as life became better in recovery, I was reminded during the holidays each year, of the time I’d lost with loved ones now gone, due to my using. Even as new chapters unveil themselves, this season’s inherent nostalgia and reflectiveness can cast a long shadow over the ways that life has improved. 

As someone who used booze and coke as coping mechanisms for many years, I know that my initial reaction to pain is to isolate. And I also know that the quickest actual way to remove the pain is to get active and connect with the new family I’ve found as a result of the positive changes I’ve made. In any situation I can find good and bad, gratitude and suffering, based on my outlook. The holidays are a bit brighter these days due to new additions to the family, but I know that will change as other loved ones continue to move on. I also know that with joy comes suffering - that is the dance. I can get on the floor and feel it all today, instead of ducking into a bottle to avoid either one. For that I am grateful."


"We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy." - Desmond Tutu

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ~ Manny / Refuge Recovery... "I started my sobriety from alcohol on December 1, 2019. I knew that the holidays were tough. They definitely are a difficult time for sobriety…for sure. I do feel pressure to “celebrate” but…I just know that my current lifestyle is the only way for me to go and that nothing else is as important as my sobriety…I know that Holidays are “impermanent” and I really lean into that! The holidays will pass and then the days will get longer and I will get back to my job andall that…until next year! During the holidays we are all encouraged to “party”! Gather together, have a “good” time! My attitude is that I am not looking to “have fun” anymore…at least not in that euphoric sense. I won’t be dancing on any tables so to speak...So…I don’t have expectations of feeling “happy" or “excited" on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve…nope…I don’t expect to feel those “high” emotions. On New Year’s Eve, for example, I will be in the same emotional state as I would be on March 6 at 2pm working on an algebra problem. That is just what I have come to expect from my life. Substances definitely make me feel for those euphoric states and they are absolutely fantastic but…if I want to be a sober person I don’t get to be in that emotional state. There is a price to pay for sobriety and that is why a lot of people don’t want to be sober. It makes sense. Most people are not interested in trying to cultivate peace, contentment and Buddhahood as a dominant state of life most of their time. They want the highs. They don’t want to give that up. The reason I am willing to give up the highs is because I am responsible for living a life where I can provide for myself and that is what I am slowly, slowly…at a snail’s pace, working on."

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ~ Adam T / Refuge Recovery

 "The “Christmas Spirits”...

Growing up, Christmas was always all about church. There was the choir rehearsals and performances there was a Christmas play that I was usually a part of, there was the Christmas party at the pastors house who only the elite few of us families were invited to. Christmas was all about Jesus.  It wasn’t until I moved out of the house that I started going to Christmas parties that were centered around booze. This idea of “we’re going to get sloshed” at the company Christmas party was a restaurant industry norm. Which is pretty redundant considering every night after dinner service was a night to get hammered for us line cooks.  Even if they were crew-members who at first didn’t really party like that it was at the Christmas party that would permit us to use the occasion as a reason for peer pressure.  “Take  another shot”, “have another one”,  “what are you drinking”, and “we need more drinks” where now carols being sung. Drinking is the only socially acceptable peer pressure vice. It’s not an issue if your coworkers egg you on to have another drink.  Now substitute alcohol for any other addiction out there and it seems ridiculous.  My drug of choice used to be methamphetamine but I wouldn’t go around with the pipe asking people to take a hit.  That would be unheard of. Most normal people would consider me a lowlife addict if I had done that. But go to a Christmas party and the same normal people will be lined up at the bar or pushing a drink onto others who weren’t as far along as them.  Misery loves company. This kind of socially acceptable behavior is a dangerous one. People get drunk at Christmas parties and they drive home. The roads are icy and people die. I remember being a server at a Denny’s and the company Christmas party was taking place in the banquet room.  Of course I had to work the shift that night but that didn’t stop me from sneaking into the party to take some shots. By the time my shift was wrapping up, four cops sat at one of my tables. I tried so hard not to let on that I was drunk. I slurred my words and one of the officers  looked at me kind of funny.  He asked me what was going on in the banquet room I told him it was the company Christmas party he said it sounds like you started a little early, I was only 18 so I was scared out of my mind, until he chuckled and said just make sure not to drive home. This stands out to me because not only was it socially acceptable for me to be drunk in public because it was a Christmas party,  but it was also okay as minor.  I could’ve killed somebody on my way home that night and those officers who chuckled would’ve cheered me on.  Now to me the idea of celebrating by getting drunk or high is counterproductive to what celebration really is. I know people who drink because they’re sad not realizing that drinking and alcohol is a depressant go figure. That’s equivalent to saying I’m hot so let me put on this winter jacket.  Drinking your cares away is the battle cry for those suffering.  Whether it be at the bar or at the Christmas party there  will always be somebody who’s celebrating suffering. For me I love being in the moment I love not worrying about forgetting the awesomeness that is present time awareness.  My Christmas parties consist of family.  Young adults that are my children, a granddaughter who is a year old, a wife who takes a million pictures cause with them time is flying by.  They’re growing up so fast and if I were out of touch, inebriated, or drunk I’d miss out on the  precious moments that are fleeting.  Life is short already. The number of holidays is limited, and I would rather enjoy every moment present than to have to drink to get into the “Christmas  Spirit.” -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

~ Anonymous... "This is such a thoughtful, kind-hearted and needed message to distribute during what can be for so many of us a tough time of year."


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If you are dreading the holidays and look forward to them being finished for whatever reason...there are many organizations that can ease the pain and struggle of staying sober or feeling alone. There's lots of great help out thereClick on the links below and you'll find in person and zoom meetings, all filled with kindness, love and compassion:

(Affiliate links):

Books: There are many great books available out there. My first, and one of my favorites, This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. https://amzn.to/4aCpjAG Other personal faves are: Dharma Punx by Noah Levine https://amzn.to/48E9ebY Refuge Recovery by Noah Levine https://amzn.to/47ofhjN Twelve step book recommendations: Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book - https://amzn.to/3TNYV0E How Alanon Works - https://amzn.to/3RGZhUi Paths to Recovery / Alanon - https://amzn.to/3NSSPbP A few members of my recovery fam and contributors...



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