What I Wish You Would Have Known (Being Sober For The Holidays)

I got sober in July of 2002 and I remember that first holiday season so vividly. Over and over and over again, I had to pass up offers to drink from friends who just didn’t “get it”, from family members who I hadn’t told the truth to yet, from business associates who couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t have “just one” and from society in general with its relentless marketing of a neurotoxin that almost destroyed me.

Every day, in those early, shaky days, I had to push back on FOMO, of not being “normal”, and it felt like a full-time job (mentally, emotionally and physically) to not act upon my very real cravings for alcohol, for the numbing effect it delivered and for the kind of internal peace I only thought existed in a bottle of wine. Every single day, in those early, shaky days, I had to push back on the voices in my head that told me… “Maybe you just needed a break…. Maybe you CAN have just one…. Maybe THIS time will be different….”

But the REAL me knew the truth; that I could no longer consume alcohol. It would take many, many years of sobriety and then therapy and getting into real recovery, before I would flip that narrative to, “I don’t HAVE to drink. I don’t WANT to drink. Like, EVER!” and it would take many, many years before I’d finally recognize that being sober was a beautiful gift rather than a wretched curse. But in those early, shaky days, it was torture. It felt like HELL to get sober. So much of my energy was spent *simply* staying sober and I remember thinking, “If people only knew how hard this was, they wouldn’t be trying to make it harder.”

If I could go back in time, here are a few things I would have told myself and here are a few things I wish you would have known:

* I would have told myself to stay home a LOT more during that holiday season (and maybe even the next one…). I would have made sure to take care of ME first and I would have trusted that the people who really loved me would have understood.

* For the events I did attend, I would have had “canned” responses for why I wasn’t drinking, just to make my life easier. Things like, “No thank you. I’m not drinking right now.” or “No thank you. I don’t drink alcohol.” Or “No thank you. I’m driving/have an early morning/am doing a health thing….” or just, “No, thank you.”

* I would have arrived at the party with my own non-alcoholic beverages and I’d have kept a drink in my hand at all times as a way to ward off the offers (this is a great tip for anyone trying to get sober; people don’t offer you a drink when you have a drink in your hand).

* I would have told myself that I didn’t have to label myself an “alcoholic” in order to not partake and I’d have reminded myself that it was no one else’s business why I wasn’t drinking.

* I would have reassured myself that I wouldn’t always feel like the whole world was judging me for not drinking.

* I would have told myself that I wouldn’t always feel like one, big, raw nerve where a person used to live and that one day, I’d be a part of a growing army of sober Warriors.

* I would have reminded myself that the holidays WILL end and that they are just days on the calendar and I would have reminded myself that if I could get through the holiday season sober, then I was a fu*king ROCKSTAR.

* I wish you would have known how much your support would have meant to me. How appreciative I would have been to not have to answer your questions about my change in behavior.

* I wish you would have known how much your support could have helped me like when you’d include lots of non-alcoholic bevvies at your gatherings and when you didn’t flinch when I asked for one.

* I wish you would have known just how hard it was for me to stay sober and I wish I could have shared with you more openly so that you could have understood.

* I wish you could have known how supported I felt when you chose to abstain in my presence. True story: My best girlfriends drink. But when we get together as a group, they don’t imbibe because they (unlike me) have never struggled with alcohol. Although I am very, very used to people drinking around me (remember, I got sober over 20 years ago), it STILL feels soooo supportive and wonderful when I’m with others who abstain. It is like a special gift they give me that feels like love.

I trust this message will land where it’s meant to land, and I hope for all of our sakes, that we can get through this holiday season with a little more compassion and a little less judgment.

And for anyone starting or continuing a sobriety journey, YOU are a fuc*ing ROCKSTAR.

I love you.

And I want you to love your life one bite, one breath, one holiday at a time.

Keep going…


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