This time of year is a tricky one. In a number of ways it doesn’t bother me as I don’t have a busy family life nor any events to attend so I can pick and choose where I go to avoid temptation. This has developed over time and has come about out of lifestyle changes that I have made in sobriety.
In my first year I made a plan for the actual Christmas day but not for the days leading up nor in between. In year one I don’t think that this was an issue for me as I stopped drinking on the 5th December. Those early days of sobriety are incredibly difficult but also means you are acutely aware of the pain and damage that a relapse could cause.
Year two was a different matter, I had got a bit cocky and possibly careless…. I got some bad news one day out of the blue while I was on the train heading to work. It set off a chain reaction in my brain pain, anger and hurt.
At this time in my life I was working in London and had to walk to a meeting with a customer. I managed to get through the meeting and was walking back to the office thinking about the news I had received earlier that day. The route meant that I walked past a lot of pubs and wine bars. All were bustling and trying to entice you in with various offers on alcohol.
My gut reaction was to go in I could pretend I was waiting on colleagues as I had done previously. I could drink and drink until the pain left me, my old cravings told me that this would make me better but my brain also told me that this was not the case. One advantage I had at that point was nearly 12 months of recovery and that was embedded deep in my mind somewhere. Instead of going into a pub or winebar I got my phone out my bag and called people.
Now the irony of this was that the first call I tried to make went to voicemail, then the second and the third. While I had been calling I was still walking and before I realised it I was back at the office and the desire to drink had passed. I then got a call back from one of my recovery friends and could talk through my pain and compose myself ready to go back to work. There is something incredibly powerful about talking and saying the words out loud to relieve the anxiety and help with feelings.
It is all well and good to prepare for the big events but there is really important to have a daily strategy too:
- have trusted friends in your phone book who you can call in
- make an exit plan, no matter how small
- know your daily movements and don’t be scared to say no to things you are not comfortable with
- listen to your gut, its my head that gets it wrong
- know our limits – there are no bravery awards
I was never a fan of christmas before as I always felt I had to please everyone else. Now I do it on my terms and have a lovely time being with the people I want to be with and enjoying myself on my terms.