On sober holidays

Updated: Dec 30, 2018

When I first stopped drinking, I had no idea how long I would stay stopped. I quit in January, and the next obvious drinking holiday after January is Independence Day. (Actually, it’s probably St. Patrick’s Day, but I’m miraculously not much for beer.) So, with July 4th a full seven months away, and with no intention of abstaining for that long, the question of sober holidays felt like mostly a non-issue.

If I had quit in December, the same prospect would have loomed large. Alcohol is served at nearly every holiday party. Alcohol makes it easier to spend time with family. Alcohol helped me relax and have fun. It was like HGTV, providing a total consciousness makeover.

I’d love to give you the details of my first sober Christmas – at which point it would have been 11 months since my last drink – but honestly, I can’t remember much. It wasn’t very important. Some way, somehow, Jesus’ birth came and went without so much as a champagne toast. He’d be rolling over in his grave if it weren’t for sober Easter. (Way less of a big deal, by the way.)

Granted, there were a few friends who I tended to only see at Christmas, and we tended to only see each other over drinks. I ordered a Diet Coke, and the roof didn’t cave in. That Christmas, I didn’t need to awkwardly drum up any company for the world’s least-exciting field trip to a small-town liquor store. I turned in for bed an hour or two earlier, and I didn’t spike the egg nog. I was a little more myself: more alert, attentive, introverted. More conscious. And that was it.

When people consider giving up alcohol, they often make the mistake of zeroing in on the couple of days per year where alcohol feels super necessary. In reality, holidays are only 24 hours long, and you can be asleep for 8 of those. If you’re obligated to attend a holiday party, I have two questions for you: 1. Is that true? and 2. When can you leave?

Your sober “firsts” – first holiday, first birthday, first wedding, first date – do not “set the scene” for what’s to come. If your first sober Christmas feels a little disappointing, you have not learned anything about your second sober Christmas. History won’t repeat itself if you don’t.

On my first sober New Years, I attended a couple of twelve step meetings. On my second, I spent time with a close friend. This year, I’ll be with a boyfriend who I really love. Every holiday is an opportunity to prove to myself that my unaltered state is enough. Life needs no extreme makeover: consciousness edition.

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