Holy Days and Holidaze
One slushy, winter day, in the bumpy days just after New Year’s Eve – when I had been sober, thankfully – I stopped into a cafe for a coffee and met a friend there. He asked how I was doing so instead of saying “Great!” which wasn’t true, I decided to be honest, “Well, you know how it is – the winter and holidays are just bringing me down.” He said something that surprised me, “Sorry you feel that way. But – No, I don’t know how it feels. This kind of weather energizes me and I love nothing more than the holidays.” I was happy for him, but more used to hearing people grump along with me. Maybe a lot of us critters just like a chance to get a complaint in, any complaint, just to be sure to fill that day’s quota. 😉
Truth is, winter IS hard on my system. Not only with diagnosed bipolar depression which worsens in winter with a layer of seasonal affective depression on top of it, too, just to cover all bases, but also as an alcoholic, it is a notoriously tricky time for me. I’ve been sober through many, many holidays so I am no longer bothered by being the only one not lifting champagne at New Year’s Eve (mineral water is just fine), and everyone knows me well enough to know I basically don’t drink (not everyone knows about the relapses; I don’t talk alcoholism with most people, they just know I am not a drinker). So it is not the “not joining in” bit that bothers me; when I have relapsed in winter it was always on my own and secretly. I have been in psych hospital 10 times in my 50-odd years (and believe me, they were very ODD years!), and ALL of those inauspicious occasions have been on this or that day in November to late March. I have spent 3 Christmas Days on a ward. Not the best record. Other years I’ve come through with flying colours.
So since I have a lot of experience of doing skillful and not so skillful things to make my way through a notoriously hard part of year for me – and which I know from lots of other people is hard for them too – I thought it might be interesting to suggest a topic this week that circulates around:
a) do you find yourself projecting in negative ways as the holidaze descend and the nights get colder and draw in? When you catch yourself doing that, do you have a tool (or 2 or 3) for changing that decline from down back up to a reasonable level of mood?
b) how do we feel as the holidays approach in terms of our sobriety, i.e., an experienced sober woman may not be especially concerned about the alcohol part (but may be worried about illness or loneliness) while a newcomer may be all shaky inside wondering if they will be able to “make it” over a heavily boozy holiday period without picking up. We need to live in today, but AA also tells us to make sensible plans, so as the Chocolate Santas and Advent Calendars start being stocked up on the shelves in stores all over Gotham City, have you started making plans as to how you will handle the holiday season sober? Do any of you more long-term sober ladies have ideas as to how newcomers can approach the boozy season without relapse?
It may seem a tad early to get into this subject, but for some of us Halloween parties are just around the corner and it only just starts. Many of us have already started preparing menus and making seasonal decorations. The heat is on! Or is it?
Heaven knows the TV and mags are going to bombard us with glamourous, glitzy perfect people and ideal families celebrating perfect parties and ideal dinners in perfect houses in ideal worlds. The rest of us, even beauties, look pretty shabby compared to them. But then, that is fantasy and we are real, and in sobriety we have the wonderful opportunity to step back and say, no, I am not going to be pushed around by false values any more. I’m going to do the best I can with what I have, and that will be good enough.
That is one of my tools – keep my goals realistic. FEAR is False Expectations About Reality, and I can get in a very fearful, anxious state of mind as I plan my part in the holidays and start preparations. Keep it simple. These days my holidays are far from Martha Stewart. Also, I have learned the art of saying “No” to any invitations that I don’t feel comfortable about or to any task I feel put me “over the limit” of my tolerance. Just briefly, other things that help ***me*** stay well include daily devotional study and yoga, nutritional foods and not junk; daily outside exercise no matter the weather, or if impossible, exercise by a sunny window; use my SAD light; good sleep; stay away from negative people as much as possible; journal; take medication as prescribed; stay close to AA in every way, throughout the day.
I’m very interested in anything you all have to say about staying sane and sober over winter, both through the holidays and after them. Any tips? Please be as practical as you can be and any anecdotal experiences of your success would be a plus.
As always, if you need to talk about something else, please do so.