Erin’s Nest

On Last week’s Bubble Hour podcast the topic was “people pleasing and surviving the holidays”. Despite some wonky screw ups at the opening of the show (gotta love live-to-air recordings!), the episode was full of great insights from our guests. If you are dreading the holidays ahead, it is worth a listen (or two).

One of my all-time favourite tips came from our guest Erin, who described how she survived a gathering at her home in early recovery.  She had already offered to host Thanksgiving and all the arrangements were in place, but meanwhile she had quit drinking. So with only 7 days of sobriety, Erin found herself facing the enormous challenge of playing hostess.

Someone in her support group recommended she create a safe space for herself, to have an escape plan if necessary. Before the guests arrived, she prepared a secret nest in her closet; complete with pillows, water, magazines and her smart phone. Whenever Erin felt overwhelmed, she snuck away and spent a few moments in her quiet hiding spot. She took a sip of cool water, calmed her mind, touched base with her online recovery group for encouragement and gathered her strength before returning to her guests. It wasn’t just the break from the holiday hubbub that gave her a much-needed boost; it was also the simple act of prioritizing self-care.

To protect your recovery over the holidays PLAN AHEAD. It is important to anticipate ways to administer self-care. This is different than worrying about “what ifs”: What if someone offers me a drink? What if I want to leave and my spouse doesn’t? What if people make me uncomfortable?

Instead, think proactively: I’ll bring along non-alcoholic drinks and keep my own glass filled. If someone asks why I am not drinking I can say I am driving. I’ll give my spouse cab fare so I can take the car home early if I want to leave.

You can also expect the unexpected – that you’ll enjoy yourself and things will be fine! This sounded outlandish to me when I first quit drinking because I was never comfortable or happy without a wineglass in hand. I had to relearn some basic social skills but sure enough, the fun returned. And yes, I have left plenty of parties early – graciously so, of course.

For more hints and tips, check out this post I wrote a year ago before heading away on a vacation. I planned ahead and as it turned out, I was pretty miserable on that trip but I did stay sober under some very difficult circumstances:

Take care of yourselves, my friends. The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most challenging.


  1. Will be needing all the help I can get, can’t keep hiding out all comfy at home lol! Already had to turn down an “adult” holiday party because adult means lotsa drinks and I’m not ready to be around all that. I’m 54 days in and the pull is still strong. I’m missing my mind numbing friend/enemy but holding out hope things will get better. Trying to control my anxiety(aka OCD funness) and focus on how good I feel every morning. Deep breaths and thanks again for the inspiration:)


  2. I love this post! For so many reasons, but particularly because it reminds me how much holiday madness I have escaped just by leaving the country. 😉 I get homesick a lot, particularly around Thanksgiving, and my life is, I suppose, a bit lonelier now that I’m a stranger in a strange land. But I do NOT miss the pressure of performing during the holidays. It’s nice to realize that I’ve just given myself permission to step out of that social race, and enjoy some special time with my husband and children. I wish I had had these tips a few years ago, though!


  3. Did no one ask where she was? I can’t imagine in my family gatherings being able to escape to the bathroom for a quick pee without someone asking, “Where’s Marilyn?” All I can say is whatever works… The holidays are difficult for sure, and I try to stay very busy and sip my sober drink of choice – gassy water and cranberry in a wine glass. I’d say GOOD LUCK everyone, but we all know it’s not about luck at all…


  4. I can sooo relate. It is just exhausting to know that at work, at home, hosting a gathering, someone else always needs something from you. And if you have a drinking problem you don’t even feel strong enough yourself, for yourself, so how the hell can you keep up with all these demands, urgent reports, impatient customers, demanding kids, requiring households, keeping everyone happy. Exhausting.

    Wine takes the edge off. Makes the entire experience slightly more ‘floaty’. I hope this makes sense.

    You want to quietly sit somewhere with a bottle if wine and just, for ten minutes, not be needed because if you are not needed you won’t have to do anything, and then you can’t dissapoint.

    I’ve learnt to say no. I’ve just started realising that the kids can pick their own shit up, that doesn’t have to be my hobby. No husband i can’t get up now abd check what we need from grocery store, i would be checking the same fridge and cupboards you can check? Sorry boss i hear its urgent and I’m gonna get there, but it won’t be tonite at home while you watch TV with your family.

    I have a right just like everyone else to say no, to not be responsible for everyone else’s needs.


  5. A very interesting and informative article. I’m not exactly in recovery, but I am in treatment for ptsd and the holiday season is anything but a holiday for me. I really appreciate the suggestions you put forth in your post, and I’m betting I use more than one of them in the next month or so. Thanks again.


  6. Have added this to the Holiday section of my Soberliscious List.
    Safe place….GREAT IDEA! Thank you for posting this Jean.

    P.S. Thank you to Erin as well


  7. I loved it too thank you very much (also loved the bubble hour even with its technical stuff, made you all the more ‘real’).

    I’ve folks coming for xmas, long time planned and we’re all normally BIG boozers. So I’m dreading it if I’m totally honest, already clashed with my BF about it a few times as she’s trying to help but not and trying to get her booze shipped up here early. NOT HAPPENING.

    Now, I’m the queen of making folks cozy and I had all these scenarios about making everyone’s rooms up. We live in a tiny cottage. So I was going to give up my room and sleep on a sofa bed.

    After you and Belle also talking about ‘safe spaces’ and bed being like a sober hideaway, I don’t think I can give up my special space and stay sane (and sober).

    Thank you so much!! And Erin, inspired!!

    Loved the show. Its really made me think this week about being a ‘super wife/girl/friend’ and how much of myself I give away (and run ragged) to make everything perfect for everyone but me.

    Hugs and love from Scotland x


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