Staying clean and sober during the holidays can be especially challenging with temptations at seemingly every corner.
Maybe it’s the holiday party with the open bar or the alcohol and drugs available on New Year’s Eve. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable if you’re in recovery and invited to those types of gatherings.
Rosecrance alumni and staff stress that it’s important this time of year to reach out for help from sponsors, friends and relatives, and attend 12-Step meetings to help maintain your sobriety.
A panel of alumni shared their advice during the “Enjoying the Holiday Spirit without Spirits” event Dec. 7 at the Rosecrance Berry Campus. Attendees enjoyed conversation, food and activities.
Rosecrance alumna Teresa shared with the group that she grew up in a big family with a mom she likens today to Martha Stewart. Teresa said there was always alcohol in the house, and she started drinking when she was 13.
“As a mother myself, I wanted to emulate my mom for Christmas because I always remember our Christmases being so wonderful,” she said. “I always wanted to be like her, but I also had the beer.”
Teresa checked into Rosecrance on Dec. 1, 2010, and spent her first sober Christmas there. She learned how to have fun and enjoy the company of other people while sober, a lesson she’s still thankful for today.
She makes it a priority to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting if she’s feeling stressed during the holidays, such as during the day on Christmas Eve.
“When I get lazy and stop going to meetings, I start to feel yucky. I don’t feel that great protection,” she said. “It just armors me, and it shields me from those outside things that we see on TV, everybody glamorizing alcohol or whatever. Or even the taste-testing in the stores. I can walk by those and not even think about it.”
Make sure you have an out if you’re at a family function or a party and you start to feel uncomfortable. Rosecrance alumnus Jordan suggested telling a few people who are either in the program or someone you know who’s going to hold you accountable where you are, what’s going on and what’s going to be there.
“If you’re feeling itchy or anxious, check in with them. If you’re feeling shaky, maybe help another alcoholic instead,” he said.
Brendan, 18, first checked in for treatment at the Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus on his December birthday nearly four years ago. He emphasized the importance of taking recovery one day at a time.
“The only reason I liked holidays before was because I got more drug money,” he said. “The most important part for me now about staying clean around the holidays is surrounding yourself with people who are in the program or people who have goals and are more focused and realize that having family around is really interesting to be part of.”
Jordan said working the 12 Steps changed him “from the inside out,” and that’s what took away his obsession to drink or to use.
“Once that happened, the holidays didn’t faze me as much,” he said. “Because I can remember I used to just wake up, do the presents thing with my family and then go up to my room and start drinking. That was what Christmas used to mean for me.
“So the change is, with sobriety, I’m actually able to be present physically and mentally, be of use to my family, but especially also for people within AA. I’ve been taught accordingly to carry the message to treatment centers, go to AA meetings, get involved, do service. That’s the biggest thing that’s kept me sober.”
Jordan said he plans to chair a meeting during the evening on Christmas Day. His parents said he left Rosecrance a different person.
“I can honestly say that we can enjoy the holidays with the spirit now because Jordan went to Rosecrance, but Jordan didn’t come out of Rosecrance. We got a whole new child. We got a whole new person,” Jordan’s mom, Cindy, said.
Rosecrance Alumni Coordinator Missy Garrison also offered these suggestions:
- There are generally marathon 12-Step meetings (24 hours straight) on Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s to attend.
- If you’re early in recovery, it’s OK to avoid celebrations with alcohol and/or drugs. Remember there will be many more holidays if you can make it through your first.
- Volunteer to do service work for your home group or help at a community soup kitchen, homeless shelter or animal shelter.