I have been anticipating my first alcohol-free holiday season in more than 20 years with some dread, already casting about in my mind for ways to make it bearable without a wineglass in my hand. Even though my social life is much less frantic than during my working years, there are many things I cherish and enjoy about the holidays, including cooking and baking, hosting special meals at my house, attending festive open houses before and after the music events I love to attend, and visiting extended family.
I’ve also been remembering how emotional the holidays can be, especially as I age, dragging with them memories of loved ones who have passed away and unrealistic expectations of the “perfect” holiday. Like many others, I often found myself drinking even more than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, to tamp down the blues and temporarily elevate my mood.
When I learned about Jean McCarthy’s Holiday Survival Guide I knew I needed to read it, and it’s exceeded every expectation I had! In her forward, McCarthy reminds readers that “Whether you are newly sober, a recovery ‘old-timer,’ or a supporter of a loved one in recovery, the key for getting from November to January unscathed is to plan ahead by being aware of potential triggers and arming yourself with useful tools and strategies.”
A short, smart, practical guide, the book provides plenty of those tools and strategies, and much more. McCarthy, host of the podcast “The Bubble Hour” and author of the popular recovery blog “Unpickled,” has crafted a highly readable and very well-organized book that readers at every stage of recovery will welcome.
In nine brief chapters, each one dedicated to a particular theme or aspect of the challenges of staying alcohol-free during the holidays, the author defines and illustrates each specific theme (including general expectations, family gatherings, hosting events, work obligations, and socializing) in ways that just about any reader will relate to. Chapter 4, “Family Gatherings,” is worth the modest price of the book all by itself!
At the end of each chapter McCarthy provides ideas for simple written reflection exercises, specific tools that can be applied to each chapter theme, some excellent tips for friends and family who want to support a loved one’s sober journey, and inspiring wisdom and experience from individuals in every stage of recovery.
The tenth chapter, “Your Holiday Toolkit,” consists of a short but useful list of recovery terms and summarizes the reflection exercises for each topic so that readers can turn directly to the back of the book if they need a quick reminder.
Read this little book front-to-back, or jump in anywhere. Return to it often as a reference and resource. It might be the best holiday gift you give yourself this year! Alcohol-Free Holiday Serenity!
“[I’m] heading into my first alcohol-free holiday season and looking forward to experiencing it through new eyes. My expectations have changed, throughout recovery, in that I am now looking forward to being fully present with family and friends, rather than dreading the idea of ‘missing out’ on my old favourite holiday drinks.” –Kat (157 days of sobriety)
You can find the Unpickled Blog by Jean Mccarthy and her Unpickled Holiday Survival Guide: Staying Alcohol-Free During the Festive Season at this Link – Unpickled
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