I’ll never forget my first sober Christmas. It’s a tough gig being sober in the Christmas season! I think a lot of us are feeling triggered by all the booze around at this time of year : social media, commercials, posters, parties, stacks and stacks of booze at the end of supermarket aisles. And then negotiating parties and meals sober.
I remember my huge resentment at not being able to drink my first sober Christmas in 2015. I went totally alcohol-free on 26th December, because on Christmas Day, I had a whole bottle of wine, minus a glass, to myself, after 8 months of ‘successfully’ moderating my drinking. And my moderating was very disciplined, but really, booze was an ancient lover, from the time I was 16, and it had won me over again…..
So, there was the Relief and Anger at knowing I couldn’t just have one drink and if I continued to drink, I’d end up in a psychiatric ward, as my mental health was shot to pieces (I should add that hubby and son also drank too much, but it didn’t affect their mental health the way mine did.) I escaped to friends in Ethiopia early in 2016 for 2 months as I also couldn’t stand hubby’s criticism: he did zero to support my sobriety and in fact, was critical. I wept and gnashed my teeth.
Most of the time in Ethiopia I was very happy, as I was living in a sober home and it was brilliant! But every now and again, the Anger would roll over me. My response was to begin accepting it and the fact that I needed help for my mental health. There was a message in my anger.
Was it fear, or the real me being squished by my family and then booze for decades? So, on returning to a quite chastened husband, who stopped criticising, I did lots of research and found Open Dialogue therapy. It was then in a pilot phase in north east London, and I’d gone to their 2015 conference. The next annual event was a week after I’d got home, so I hurriedly booked online. The wonderful news was that they were extending the service to people throughout the UK, providing that we can travel to their offices in Barking.
So, I embarked on that and found the deep distress and dysfunction in my childhood which I’d blotted out with booze. I had the Open Dialogue therapy for 2 years altogether, and the lead clinician, Russell Razzaque and Cathy, are now friends who understand my somewhat dysfunctional family – which is definitely getting better on a weekly basis now. Hooray!
Anger is often my first prism when I look at life. Does it help? No, unless I use it as rocket fuel for positive action.
If I look at my life through a Buddhist/early Christian perspective, I see that the dysfunction unleashed a real yearning for peace, from the age of four. I wouldn’t get it from my family – too unrealistic. So, finding Jesus at Sunday school was such a gift and I still have that same belief in Infinite Mercy that I had then.
In my 5th sober year, I let the anger roar in, and then I have a chat with it: that frightened little girl, and soothe her. I examine whether I need to do anything, or not. My free will, which is my best buddy in my sober life. If I can’t do anything, I just let it go, and adapt to the situation, provided I’m not in any danger. Good people may become good friends; shattered people, I try to comfort, but don’t spend a lot of time with them, because it depletes my psychic energy, which is very precious these days.
I had to fix myself first. My mantras of peace and prayers are said throughout the day when necessary, as they keep my heart steady and my mind open, so it doesn’t bite down to snap judgment.
I’m looking back over the challenges of 2020 as my 5th sober Christmas season begins, and realize that the Covid 19 lockdown has been a blessing for us as a family. We’ve all pulled together so much more. We’ve stayed safe, followed the rules, and being peaceful and stoic has helped me deal with my tears at the loss of a full social life (organizing sober lunches and meetups and lots of live gigs.) Instead, I phone a lot of people, which helps keep me connected!
Hubby joined me on the sober wagon in May, which is extraordinary. This will be our first Christmas sober together. We can, and do, change in our late 60s. We’re planning which alcohol-free wines we’ll be buying, while son will be cracking on with stencils for the t-shirt business he’s slowly building. The change over the past 3 years has been astonishing. No, I’d say miraculous.
So, back to Anger and Nature. My anger informs me that I’m hurt; I let go of things I can’t control: which is most of life. I understand that Anger keeps me from getting hurt now, that it’s natural and not to be feared. At the centre of Nature though, is Peace, and it’s that Peace which I connect to, most days (I’m not perfect.) I can sit and contemplate the sycamore tree outside my lounge window, where I sit typing this.
2020 has been an epic year, really. A year of discovering how very peaceful I can be, despite all the politics, wars and atrocities. I help the homeless, donate to the National Assn for the Children of Alcoholics, and participate actively in the Boom Rethink the Drink and Club Soda communities.
Anger is no longer a ‘trigger’, it’s a friend reminding me to be careful and observe more, or else run for the hills. It’s natural, just as the inner peace is the most natural of all.
Wishing you the same peace and stillness this Christmas season. Contemplate a snowflake, a candle, your dog, a tree, or your amazing body. All miracles and all real. We notice so much more when we stop obliterating life…….
This post was shared with the Boozemusings Community by Annette Allen, an active member of BOOM Community Rethink the Drink and the author of An Ethiopian Odyssey The wonderful images in this post taken by Jonathan Warner, a dear friend.
More Posts from our Boozemusings Blog to Inspire you from your first sober Christmas and beyond :
You are touched by greatness
Let your mind know it;
You are caressed by love
Let your heart show it;
You are lifted up by mercy
Your cries are heard and answered.
You are surrounded by abundance
Nothing is too much to ask for;
You are focused on clarity
Nothing stands in your way;
You are the peace you seek
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