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Recovery During the Holidays

Season Can Present Problems for Recovering Alcoholics


Updated February 09, 2014

This article was written by Hamish White, a certified alcoholism and drug dependency counselor who has his own addiction practice called Recovery Counseling Services in North Toronto. Hamish and his team provide out-patient individual and group counseling to adolescents adults and family members.

What It Was Like

I used to really look forward to the holiday season. It was a time when drinking was accepted and expected. Lavish, well-stocked bars, office parties and abounding eggnog become the welcome norm.

"Merry Christmas... what can I get you to drink?" and "Let's celebrate" were the festive greetings that I looked forward to in anticipation as I endeavored to blend in with these other, less-experienced drinkers.

I Would Seem Sober

I would seem sober compared to their low-tolerenced reaction to Christmas libation. I was one of the crowd smiling and nodding to others as I loading up the shopping cart at the L.C.B.O. [Liquor Control Board of Ontario],surrounded by others doing the same thing.

Oh, happy times! Never mind that this was my third time stocking up for the holidays, obliterating a two week supply in two days.

'Normal' Seasonal Activities

My friend Bill describes his experience at Christmas time. He says there were several added plusses to the Noel season:

Wrapping 'Gifts' "Secrets became the norm." he told me "I could smuggle in large bottles of Vodka in with the bundles of Christmas parcels. Cocaine could be out in the open in my bedroom mirror and the bedroom door could be locked because, yes, I was hiding something but everyone thought, well hoped, that I simply needed privacy to wrap 'their' gifts."

Time to Catch Up He went on to say "It was great for a drunk. I could go out on a moment's notice to 'get some ribbon' only to return later much later with a wonderful excuse on how I had just met my old pal Steve who was in town for the season and so we just had to 'catch up'".

Easier to Get Away He said it was much easier to get away and drink. "I could be absent for long periods without too much interrogation. Normally I had to account for my whereabouts to my skeptical and suspicious family, but I could book three or four hours to 'Christmas shop.' Shop for 45 minutes at Shoppers or Grand and Toy and spend the rest my liberty with my cronies at the Pilot. Only to stagger home with glazed eyes and a complicated tale about my shopping exploits."

Sneaking and Creeping He says that because of his long history of drinking and lying about it - "sneaking and creeping" as he puts it - he was always "under observation," but during the holiday season he could buy some time under the guise of normal seasonal activities.

Plan Your Sober Holidays!

Sober holidays for those of us in recovery can also present some problems. Thoughts can creep in like, "maybe I can just have one eggnog" or "what a happy time - I know how to make it better" or "I feel lonely - a drink or drug would sure pick me up."

There are several techniques that I and others have found very helpful in maintaining sobriety and recovery during these tempting and difficult times. Recently sober people are often confronted with drinking and using [drugs] situations for the first time since they began their recoveries. There are solutions:

Plan your days. Let your sponsor or friend in recovery know where you will be and have that person's number with you just in case.

Part Two: Have a Plan B

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