Author’s Note: I use the words alcoholic and addict almost interchangeably. An alcoholic is an alcohol addict and most likely capable of abusing more than just alcohol. The Narcotics Anonymous first Step tells us we are “Powerless over our addiction…”, which applies to every alcoholic and addict I know. I have not met any alcoholics who are powerless only over alcohol. I pray you will not take offense at the language I use in this column. If you do, please let me know your concerns… after you write a fourth Step and do a fifth Step with your sponsor on whatever is bothering you. Smile! The Steps work on everything!
Small wonder many alcoholics and addicts mark their recovery date on or around January first. Many of us finally have had enough after going through yet another holiday season drunk, loaded, puking and/or passed out. Bad enough to not remember the parties and family time, but often we do huge damage. For compulsive overeaters, this is an especially difficult time and enormous weight gain is common.
Sadly, the incidence of drug and alcohol related accidents, driving and otherwise, is extremely high during December and January. More than a few of us are responsible for injuries and deaths that haunt us for the rest of our lives.
Not only do we contribute to this ubiquitous seasonal pandemonium, but we are capable of creating our own special brand of chaos. Some of us are known to take out our free-floating and diffuse anger on others in especially destructive ways (really?). We are capable of devastating a family dinner by bringing up past problems, being critical, sarcastic, rude, hostile or just sullen and withdrawn, displaying our resentments whether we are loaded or sober. We are experts at passive-aggressive behavior and pretty good at pouting.
If we have not yet embraced real recovery, actually even if we have but are not yet perfect (Joke), we probably have painful memories that pop up around holidays. We may have grown up in a household where parents were drunk, angry, punitive, absent or just plain difficult. We may have been abused by parents, siblings or other family we saw at this “special” time of year. Maybe we have sadness around relationships we have lost due to our own destructive behavior. Some people, including recovering addicts, have children they don’t get to see and many are very, very unhappy and alone.
Even with the best of all worlds, even if we are sober and have worked through much of our past, Christmas and other holidays are stressful…. even good stress is stress. No wonder so many of us finally hit bottom at this time of year.
If you think you “might” have this teensy little drinking/drugging problem, just sort of on and off, mostly on, possibly a little more on holidays (doesn’t everyone?), you might be alcoholic/addict. If it quacks, walks and looks like a duck, it probably is a duck. Consider getting help before you do irreparable harm to yourself, to your relationships or to someone else. Contact me, or someone else who knows about alcoholism and addiction. Do it anonymously if you want. Just do something other than what you have always done.
If you are sober and somewhat clear, think through what you need to do to survive and stay sober during this holiday season. If you do what you used to do (get loaded), you will get what you used to get. Try something different; hang out with your sober friends. Consider doing something active: hiking, snowshoeing or even bowling. Get to a gym if you can, or at least go for a walk. Endorphins, my favorite drugs, are our brain’s antidepressants and we can create them with exercise. Invite someone to join you…that will help both of you.
You don’t have to have much recovery to be ahead of the person who is on day one. Go to a meeting in a detox facility and share your experience, strength and hope. Find newcomers and ask if they need a ride, or just someone to talk with. Buy a new person a cup of coffee. Do it!
Live in the solution, not the problem!