Many a well-intended sober person has slipped or flat-out relapsed in this tricky holiday season.
It’s important to have a plan to steer you through these slippery times. It’s also important to be realistic and not attend drinking or using parties. I mean, come on now, do you really have any business being there? And really, do you think they will actually miss you? Didn’t think so.
During past holidays, stress, anxiety, loneliness, depression and worries disappeared in a flash by rubbing alcohol right across the tongue, then down to the tummy. Cocaine, pot and most any opiate also worked wonders on such terrible feelings.
So the plan needs to deal with these highly uncomfortable feelings. Let your loved ones in on your plan so they can help. It’s been said addiction is a feelings disease. Addicts hate to feel emotional and psychic pain more than most. Maybe, truth be told, they are just more sensitive to feelings. Who knows?
At any rate, a good plan includes staying close to your support group. Increase the number of times you go to meetings and get with your sponsor. Do some new meetings. Remember, your presence at a meeting is a gift to those in attendance. You don’t even need to share. Just showing up is a wonderful gift. Now is not the time to isolate, Mountain Man. Get out there.
If you have a bunch of relatives who don’t approve of your lifestyle for some reason, avoid them. You don’t need toxic people in your life, period. If it’s not avoidable, take a supportive pal along. As with any event that features alcohol, go late and leave early. Don’t let your disease fool you into thinking you can hang around where pot, alcohol or anything else so “yummy” is being used. Get out.
Stop stressing over presents. Make a card or send an email saying you will shovel their walk after the first snowfall and every Friday that it snows for a month. Ha. No fair praying it doesn’t snow on Fridays. Maybe you could gather some pinecones and make something. We all love homemade gifts. Or tell someone you are donating five hours of soup kitchen work in their honor this month. Can you promise to take a youngster to the park sledding as soon as it snows? These things count. These things are presents.
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Keep your emergency plan in your pocket. Oh, what’s that? Tsk, tsk. It’s two phone numbers of pals who will talk you down from that monster in your head that wants you to use. It’s someone who knows how to get you away from a slippery place. Don’t ever let your head talk you past the phone guys. That’s where you never call and fall flat on your face when all it would have taken is a phone call.
Also on your list is a special saying, one so powerful it can bring you back from the brink. It might be a note reminding you that you’re an addict and to use is to die. Or maybe it says “Heather’s third birthday is next Wednesday.” Or “Never give up,” or “You can do this, so quit’cher belly aching.”
It could have a suggestion, such as a meeting held on the Internet. Maybe it’s one of the ones not found right around here like Women For Sobriety or Secular Organizations for Sobriety. There are also special meetings for GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered or questioning) members in larger cities. Lots of info on the Internet.
Find a place to volunteer so you can give back to your community. “I took and took. Now I want to find a way to give back,” said one fellow.
Remember H.A.L.T.: Remind yourself not to get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired during this season. Work at getting some exercise and at eating as well as you are able. Try also to get some Z’s on a regular basis. And for heaven’s sake, have some fun every single day.
Make a darned gratitude list. And, for 30 minutes every day, add 10 new things to it. I just dare you to feel sorry for yourself if you are grateful for your ears, for robins, for the giggles of rug-rats. You could likely add 100 a day. Remember, resentments are off-limits and they’re from expecting too much. This list is like a huge bug spray, zapping resentments.
And, hey, nothing wrong with taking this holiday season a day at a time.
Liz Barnes has been a credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor for more than 25 years. She lives in Cayuga County gratefully with her family. This column is not meant as medical advice. For that, see your health professional.