I was eight months happily sober when I celebrated my first alcohol-free Christmas as an adult. I’d been blogging about sobriety in a community called Hello Sunday Morning since the previous March and was as rock solid as could be. But then December hit, and I was suddenly as raw and fragile as my first month sober. I found to my surprise that the unique holiday triggers were as daunting to fight as the everyday triggers I’d broken months before.
When I wrote this post in 2020, my fifth sober holiday season, Christmas Cheer without the booze was finally becoming organic. It took some time though to evolve to a place where I didn’t miss drinking in December. Alcohol is everywhere at this time of year. It is wrapped in gold paper, topped with a red bow, and handed to you with a smile by everyone from your boss to your grown children and your parents. Shopping, crafting, caroling, cookie baking, wrapping presents, family parties, work parties, … everything that you do between Thanksgiving and New Years’ is easily associated with alcohol and can be hard to do in early sobriety, without reaching for a drink.
The first Christmas that I spent sober I just held on for dear life. I stepped back and let my husband, son, and daughter take over “operation Christmas crazy” while I quietly sipped hot chocolate and observed. For my entire adult life, the stress of spectacular magic-making at Christmas time had been an excuse for me to drink heavily, so that first year I let the magic simply be a sober me. Present, quiet, loving, and drama free.
Now if I choose, my ability to jump through hoops sprinkling sparkle dust everywhere at Christmas time has returned without the need to pickle myself. My husband and kids have happily taken over many of the things I used to do to make our world feel extra festive and I can walk through grocery stores and shopping malls and hardly notice the alters to everything alcohol.
But there is still something that I will always remember from that first sober Christmas in 2015, that makes me really angry about the way our world pushes alcohol even in the most seemingly benign situations. I was snuggling on the couch watching T.V. with my 15-year-old daughter dressed in our Christmas sweatshirts and sipping hot chocolate cozily, when this moment in the BBC special Noble Minds, knocked me out of my comfort zone and reminded me that the bullying to drink in our culture runs deep, and most likely always will.
At 28 minutes and 30 seconds into the show, the panel is asked if science will progress to cure cancer, or rather encourage behavioral change for cancer prevention. Alcohol was mentioned as a risk factor, and the response of the Noble Laureate in chemistry was so typical of our cultural attitudes toward alcohol. I found it absolutely infuriating. In defense of alcohol he basically said Don’t blame alcohol for cancer, alcohol itself is not a known carcinogen. It’s a by-product of the metabolic process of digesting alcohol that causes cancer…
but cigarettes and processed meats
now THOSE are serious issues!
We knew that drinking alcohol caused cancer in 2015, and we also knew in 2015 that middle-aged American’s were dying in record numbers of alcohol-related suicides and disease. This is not a trend that has slowed over time. One of many articles that I’ve seen address this is here from Forbes magazine in 2022: Deaths From Alcohol—On The Rise For Decades—Soared During Covid Pandemic, CDC Says
For all of the many reasons that drinking is glorified, if you want to stop or slow down you will likely need support because it’s not just our culture that bullys us to drink it is also the liquid in the glass. Alcohol itself acts as a bully. The worst kind of bully. It looks pretty and we believe that it’s going to make us feel great but for many of us it eventually erodes our self-esteem. If you drink too much alcohol, it acts as a depressant that also raises your anxiety levels making you want to reach for more to feel “better”, which increases your depression and anxiety levels. Most of the people who finally do succeed at stopping remember this as a hopeless hamster wheel they were stuck on for years.
I have never seen that explained more vividly than in this short video.
When people share their first post in our online community they often sound desperate, sad, hopeless, and alone because they are being bullied by the very thing that they have been told will bring them joy.
If you’re trying to stop drinking, trying to slow down, or stay sober, don’t try to do it alone! That first sober Christmas I reached out to my community online right after watching that ridiculous statement from the Nobel Laureate and they reached back. It helped! If the traditional AA program doesn’t work for you there are so many other communities to try. Most people need a community of peers to cut through the noise of our culture celebrating its right to drink No MATTER WHAT!
You will need a community that enables you to stay sober while the rest of the world is insisting that the problem is not with the drink but with the drinker.
Alcoholics Anonymous was most likely the first organization that came up with the system of a community of people who enabled each other in sobriety. Smart Recovery and Refuge Recovery and Women for Sobriety have taken up that mantle with a different mood in their meeting rooms. The online community that I found at Hello Sunday Morning was on the other side of my computer and that instant, any time of day, at home in my kitchen ease of online support worked beautifully for me. Hello Sunday Morning was also not really about sobriety but about changing cultural attitudes toward drinking by taking three months or a year off the booze and that made for some really creative, nonjudgmental dialogue.
I started a community called BOOM Rethink the Drink based on what we did in the Hello Sunday Morning Community which had sadly been shut down in 2017. BOOM is like HSM was when I joined in 2015. It’s private, anonymous, free to join, and away from the busy noise of social media. It’s a comfortable place to talk about whatever you need to work through when you stop drunking and start feeling. You can read more about us here.
There are so many fantastic resources out there to help you focus on how to not drink when everyone around you seems to be toasting the buzz. Reach out! Find your tribe. Fight back and you will win on so many levels.
I spent two years on Hello Sunday Morning and never watched this Ted Talk with its founder Chris Raine. This young man says it all! It’s a Ted Talk well worth watching to wash away the hypocrisy of the Noble mind in the link above. Thank You, Chris Raine, for setting up the community that finally allowed me to step out of the dark and revel in Love and Poetry!
Merry, happy, peace, and joy to you all!
May the coming year be the best of the best years in the evolution of you .
If you are drinking too much too often maybe we can help. We are an independent, private, anonymous community forum. Alcohol is the only drug that people will question you for not using but we understand how it feels to lose your off switch.
You can read more about us and join Here
BOOM Rethink the Drink
It’s never too late.
4 alternatives to AA with online communities and in-person meetings