I spent some time today creating three mini podcasts for anyone who is struggling over the holidays. Use as need, book mark for future use as well. My little little gift to you:
Click to Listen:
Holiday Peptalk #1 : When your family is driving you nuts (via The Bubble Hour)
Holiday Peptalk #2: When you feel left out of the fun
Holiday Peptalk #3: When you need a reminder of the basics
Wishing everyone strength, wellness, and freedom.
Yesterday I was in a flat panic trying to get *all the things* done before Christmas. I rushed from place to place picking up files, mail and groceries and dropping off bank deposits and Christmas gifts. I had a list and I checked it every five minutes. If I got through *all the things* by 2 pm I would have the remaining hours of the day to finish the pile on my desk before taking off for a glorious week in the mountains. And then…at the bank…it happened….
Me (to the impossibly young bank teller): Oops I forgot to fill out the deposit book….(pen hovering over the date box) It’s the 23rd right?
Bank teller: It’s the 22nd.
Me: WHAT??? Are you kidding??? I have a whole other DAY before Christmas? Christmas is on Sunday, not Saturday??? (wildly looking around bank for the old-timey giant date cards that used to be on the walls) This is great news!!! (giving up finding the giant calendar and pulling out my phone) OH MY GOD!!! It really IS the 22nd!!!!
Bank teller: (clearly pitying a grown, sober woman who doesn’t know what day it is) Will that be all for you today….?
I GAINED A DAY!!! I wouldn’t be skidding into Christmas vacation after all, I could saunter!
And then within the hour…something else happened….I got a migraine. GAH.
My husband and I decided he would head to the ski hill to get the cabin ready (lots of shovelling and maintenance tasks for the week ahead), while I stayed behind to nurse my head, work my bonus day and drive myself out tomorrow. Thank God for that extra day!
So last night and this morning were slow and unproductive, I couldn’t even look at my paperwork. It’s now 8 pm and I am mucking through in a way that is reminiscent of cramming for finals in university. The afternoon turned to evening, and now pretty snowflakes are falling outside the window and the neighbouring homes are twinkling with festive lights. The view from my desk makes me smile.
To recap: I am alone, I feel *meh*, I have to finish several hours of work, it’s pretty outside, and tomorrow I leave for a week away.
It is moments like this when I realize just how much I have really changed since I quit drinking, because I just had the most lovely idea. I decided to put the paperwork on hold, write a post (hello!) to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year, walk my dog in the snowy lights, go to bed early and finish all this work with a pot of coffee at 6 am before I leave.
Okay, now that I read that back it just sounds like I am procrastinating, so to be specific: I am excited to get up early and work. I love love love mornings. Old me would have quit work now to drink, and then would have HAD to get up early to finish and done a crappy job because I would be hungover. Sober Jean is all “ooooh, mornings, yay!”.
I am sending lots of love and encouragement to all of you. The holidays can be hard on sobriety, hard on the emotions, and hard on the body. Be good to yourselves. Don’t drink, no matter what. Break with traditions, if traditions are not feeding your soul or your recovery. Be as generous with yourself as you are with everyone else right now. You’ve got this, we’ve got this.
Thanks for being part of my tribe for another beautiful year. I couldn’t do this without you, and even if I could I wouldn’t want to because recovery is better together!
I’m guilty of saying “I’ve got this” to myself as affirmation and “you’ve got this” to others as encouragement, but those words should be used with caution. There is a natural progression from inspiration (“I can do it”) to astonishment (“I am really doing it!”) that can easily slide into complacency (“Easy peasy, no big deal.”) if we aren’t careful. Thinking “I’ve got this” shows the positivity and confidence we aspire to, yet it doesn’t mean we can let our guard down entirely.
I am not saying we have to stay hyper vigilant and afraid for ourselves long into sobriety, but rather that it is important to continue prioritizing our own wellness. Keep growing and learning, keep checking in on ourselves.
Thanksgiving weekend has just drawn to a close for readers in the U.S., and many of you may be breathing a huge sigh of relief for successfully navigating the tricky business of family dinners, large gatherings, and all the stress that can accompany the holidays. Oddly, the quiet times can be just as challenging as the great trials.
Even though you didn’t drink, if afterwards you continually replay conversations that annoyed you, or call up one family member to discuss another, or worry what people thought, or what exactly so and so meant, then you could be burbling away with growing resentments that can put you at risk of reaching for a drink – the familiar solution to familiar pain.
Another phenomenon that many readers write to me about is the feeling that making it through a big family dinner (or other event) without drinking must mean that there isn’t such a problem after all, and ideas of moderation emerge. This never works out well, and many people are thrown right back into the same awful mess with alarming speed. Those who have experienced this say that quitting after a relapse is harder.
Holiday weekends throw many curveballs – everything from misery to joy to plain old habit can be triggering. If you made it through unscathed I salute you. If you stumbled, I send love and encourage you to get back up and move forward. If you stayed sober and had fun, wow that is awesome. If you stayed sober but were kind of miserable to be around, ah well that’s okay too.
Whatever went down this weekend, tomorrow is a new day. Even if it feels easy, let’s all remember to greet each day with gratitude and fresh resolve to continue honouring ourselves and our recovery.
The coming week will be a true test of my sobriety
The coming week will be a true test of my resolve
The coming week will be a true test of my character
The coming week will be a true test of my SPIRIT.
My husband and I have been invited to a destination wedding at an all-inclusive beach resort. As I type this, the November wind is howling outside my window with small blasts of snow ticking the glass. What sane Canuck wouldn’t be thrilled to escape for a week of sunshine?
In fact, a quiet week on the beach sounds completely heavenly but the days ahead will be anything but quiet. There are 50-some guests attending this event, all of us departing on the same flight from Calgary. Many in this group, my husband included, attend Grey Cup together each year in full “party-mode”.
Get the picture? Yah, that noisy section on the plane that all the other passengers are tired of by the end of the flight, praying they are headed to a different resort.
This is a group who is used to having a blast together and I’m not sure where I fit. I don’t want to be the wet rag. I don’t want to give recovery a bad name by being a fun-sucker. And I don’t want to miss out on fun by having an outsider mindset before we even leave home.
SO…. I am giving my head a good “Etch-a-Sketch” style shake and clearing out the negativity. Expectations (good or bad) result in resentment. Resentment feeds the addictive mindset. Let it go…..Breathe…..
There has been a noticeable spike in traffic on UnPickled lately and I wonder if it has anything to do with the upcoming holiday season. (Am I right? New readers, are you searching for answers as you dread another round of family gatherings with too much togetherness, drama, resentments, turkey, and BOOZE. Or perhaps, as New Year looms on the horizon, you are mustering the courage to make THIS the year you stick to your resolution and quit drinking? Am I right? I love being right! If that’s you please comment in the affirmative and make my day.)
Vacations, holidays, hosting 34 relatives for Christmas dinner, sleeping on your mother’s pull-out – whatever it is you dread in the weeks to come. These things can be daunting for anyone in recovery.
Here are my tried-and-true strategies for getting through such times:
- BYOD – Bring Your Own Drinks – Always always always show up with your non-alcoholic beverage of choice in one hand and a little something for the host(ess) in the other (flowers, chocolate, a bottle of wine if that’s something you feel safe handling). Before you know it, your friends will start to keep your favourites on-hand. I am not kidding – this will happen and you might be surprised to see which friends do this for you and which don’t. Take note of those who do – they have your back.
- Plan Your Escape – Bring your own vehicle, if possible, and let anyone who comes with you know that they may have to cab it home if you need to leave early. If someone else does the driving, advise them that you should need to leave early, you’ll call a taxi. Do not put yourself into situations where you can’t control your exit. This is always made easier if you do the next step, too:
- Enlist a Buddy – At first it is tempting to keep your sobriety to yourself but it is sooo much easier with the encouragement of a trusted friend. If you’re involved in a program, you may have a sponsor as close as your phone. Even so, you may often find yourself among friends or family feeling unnecessarily alone in your efforts. I will never forget the actions of my confidant very early in my sobriety. I was having dinner with a group of girls and the when the waiter came to fill their wine glasses, he also poured into the empty glass in front of me. I almost fainted. Without missing a beat in the story she was telling, my dear friend Cheryl reached across the table, lifted my glass and poured the contents into her own as she carried on with her narrative. She did it so naturally that no one even seemed to notice (or care) – expect for me, of course! I was limp with relief.
- Expect to Have Fun – Browse a few headlines, Google some knock-knock jokes, or scan your friends’ Tweets for a few reminders of their interests and connections. Be ready to join into conversation and if all else fails ask everyone questions about themselves. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and LOVES the person who listens with interest. Learn about the location you are visiting – whether it is a party in a private home, at gala at the local museum, or a vacation in another country. Bone up and be ready to explore and learn. You’ll be sailing smooth before you know it.
- Look Your Best – Put some extra effort into your appearance – over-dress even just to be safe. You may have been under a blanket all week sweating through your first week of detox, reading People Magazines and eating chocolate chips from the bag but no one needs to know that when you step out in public. Head high. Brows waxed, chin plucked. White-strips used and removed. You’re going to rock this, dammit. Even if you only stay for 90 minutes.
- Nab Little Breaks – It’s perfectly fine to step into the coat closet and text your sponsor or search #xa tweets for inspiration. Go into the bathroom and give yourself the soul-stare in the mirror. Use the seasonal candy-cane lotion from Bath and BodyWorks in there while you’re at it – the hosts will be grateful you helped work through their annual supply.
- Practice Some Lines – This sounds super corny but it is helpful: write out some ways to say “no thanks, I’m not drinking” and practice them before the event. Generally, as long as you have a glass in your hand no one will care what is in it. Still, there’s always someone who just insists on getting you something in which case you can say, “Ohhhh, I’ll have some of that delicious-looking San Pelligrino that someone [YOU] brought. Yum! Thank you!!”. If you are really pressed, just accept the drink offered and quietly set it aside and calmy WALK THE EFF AWAY. If this leaves you overly shaky, refer to items 6, 3, or 2.
So those are some maneuvers that have gotten me through countless events these past 2 ½ years, and I intent to adapt them for the resort week ahead. What have I missed? What can you add? Let’s get through this holiday season together!