There is a classic film called “A Christmas Carol” from 1951 that was adapted from the Charles Dickens book. At some point in your life, you have likely read the book or seen one of the many film or stage adaptations. I’ve been thinking about my sobriety in the context of that movie as I start my first sober Holiday Season.
Put simply, in the film “A Christmas Carol” Ebenezer Scrooge does not believe in Christmas, kind of like I didn’t believe in sobriety. Scrooges’ life is about work and the acquisition of wealth and as far as he is concerned that is far nobler than any ideal of compassion, community, or generosity, even in the spirit of Christmas. Scrooge is miserable but sees his misery as a condition of life, not a result of greed. For many years leading up to my stopping drinking, I was similarly in denial. I could not be bothered to even entertain the idea that alcohol was causing so much dis-ease in my life. I was always shooing away any indication that my drinking might be thwarting my perception of the things and the people around me. Hiding my bottles and pushing my friends and family away was very Scrooge-like. Dark, greedy, self-centered, and resentful – “Just leave me alone with my alcohol!!” – was my thought whenever anyone tried to challenge me.
The day almost one year ago, that my husband came to me and said things needed to change, was like the beginning of Scrooge’s story, when the ghost of his old friend Jacob Marley visits him. Marley is a terrifying apparition, wandering the earth entwined by heavy chains and money boxes forged during a lifetime of greed and selfishness. He tells Scrooge that he has a single chance to avoid the same fate. But Marely’s voice alone is not enough to convince Scrooge that lasting change is needed. Marley is the advance man, who lets Scrooge know that he will be visited that night by three spirits. Spirits who will help him understand how he needs to change in order to not suffer Marley’s fate, but rather to release his soul from the Earth when his time comes.
I needed to change in order to release my soul from the hopeless, resentful, dull gray space where my drinking kept me trapped, and like Ebenezer, I needed a bit more convincing. I didn’t want to look at my life and how alcohol was ruling it. In my mind I was fine. It was the onlookers who had the problem as they didn’t truly understand my troubles. I needed to drink and I could handle it.
The three ghosts who famously visit Scrooge are the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas future. Each one in turn shows Ebineezer a vision of himself. Scrooge as he once was, Scrooge as he is seen by others in his present life, and Scrooge as he could become if he doesn’t change his ways. Those ghosts that visited Scrooge? Well, they visited me too in the months following my husband’s ultimatum.
In my first months sober…
The ghost of Sobriety’s Past showed herself to me in visions of my life as a carefree child. So many fun and exciting memories long before my first drink colored my world numb!! Getting the alcohol out of my life and gaining some sober momentum helped me reconnect with that innocent child.
The ghost of Sobriety’s Present visited me also and brought visions of those whom I cannot see, perhaps they are talking nicely about me as those who knew Scrooge and appreciated him, even though he was mean and self-centered. I realized when I stopped drinking that my impressions of what others thought about me had been distorted and overblown. The ghost of sobriety’s present reminds me that while sinking deeper into alcohol dependence I had forgotten to love and trust people.
The ghost of Sobriety’s Future regularly presents herself to me. She shows me what my future will be like if I return to the path of daily alcohol consumption. She shows me the train wreck that I will create if I’m not able to stay sober. The shunning of me by my family and friends, the devastation that will befall me if I go back to drinking like I have contemplated so many times. It’s scary and sad, and perhaps like Scrooge, I will visit my own tombstone.
Choosing to stay sober no matter what challenges my first Sober Holiday Season may hold, is obviously the right move when I look at it through Ebenezer’s eyes. As I wake in my own bed this December morning, as Scrooge did after his visit from the three ghosts, I am compelled to do the right thing! I am compelled to live for today, love for today, and be sober for today!
Maneuvering the holiday season sober can feel like an Olympic event! Here are some brilliant thoughts from another member of our BOOM Rethink the Drink Community on how to get through this Sober Holiday Season in style even if it is your first and how to reach 2022 with your sober momentum intact.
Opening Ceremonies for the Sober Olympics
Let the GAMES begin! My birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve. So many excuses to drink between the end of October and the last day of December! So many temptations, rituals, habits, triggers. Take the everyday challenge of staying contentedly AF and add extra family members, busy schedules, high-stakes cooking, loneliness, money drain, dark cold weather, social events, childcare challenges, missing people or places. Oh wait, and a Global Pandemic. Forget about staying alcohol-free, how do we even stay sane???
The good news is I’ve been training all year for the Sober Olympics. I have not been 100% sober in 2021 (though I’m nearing 4 alcohol-free months now!) but I have been dealing with most of these things recently without drinking. Now it’s all the things at the same time, but I’m going to keep using the skills I’ve learned and the sober muscle I’ve been building. Here’s what I’ve been working on in anticipation of the holiday, with much credit to various Boomers who have taught me these words or showed me the tools:
* Have a plan! Do not go into any situation assuming it’ll be fine. Have an exit strategy, have my own AF beverages, have someone I can call or text (or contact the Boom “loo club”)
* Accountability: Make sure I’m clear with myself and open with those I trust that I have an intention not to drink, that I might need support in sticking to my goal. In turn, help my AF friends stay connected and accountable.
* Challenging my beliefs. They are not all true! My mom asking if that spot on the rug is new is NOT her way of telling me I’m a terrible housekeeper, a failure, and a terrible person. I am not transformed into the bratty younger sister no one likes just because my brother is in the room. My family and friends love me, and when I jump to conclusions or assume the worst, I waste that gift.
* Treat myself! Dessert, here I come! I’ve also laid in a supply of bottled mocktails and fancy grownup sodas, plus all the fizzy water my fridge can hold. Will make time for a haircut, getting my nails done, something to make things feel just as special as a champagne toast might have… before I realized it was poisoning my brain!
* Community. I have two sober buddies who I video chat with frequently (thru Marco Polo, not live). I can say anything to them about how I’m struggling, what I’m afraid of, etc. I have our private Boom community and public Boozemusings blog for reading inspiring and educational posts (and now I can listen too!) and for a Sunday Zoom I so look forward to. And I have so many sober podcasts lined up in my Stitcher feed. No, that part’s not interactive, but in addition to providing helpful tips and info, they remind me that I’m not alone. There are so many of us out there fighting the good fight against the insidious beast of alcohol.
* Look outward. The world doesn’t revolve around me, so I’ll be doing some volunteering and donating to my favorite charities. I’ll be helping friends by watching their kids. I might adopt a new kitty! And I’ll be trying to help my kid make an elaborate Gingerbread Jurassic World, since he’s been talking about it for half a year, even though it’s beyond my skill level. These things remind me to stop being so self-focused.
What events are you training for in your personal Sober Olympics this holiday season? The Perfectionism Pentathlon? The Culinary Disaster Derby? The Travel Turmoil Triathlon? The Family Faceoff? The Gifting Grapple?
I know I cannot control others and their feelings about me, but I can do a little something every day to brighten my life, and in turn, brighten the lives of others. Whether it is at home, at work, at the grocery store, or on BOOM. I know I have a lot to give, and a wonderful life to live sober. I am appreciative of all that I have lived as it helps me to maintain my perspective and carry on in a positive way. Life is too short to work all the time, to be mad or sad all the time. I want to live a jubilant life every day, and I would love to share this day with you all alcohol free!! Please join me!! Peace, love and hugs to you all!!
Come hang out with us in our BOOM Rethink the Drink community. In a world where alcohol is the only drug that people will question you for NOT using and abusing – it’s great to have a team at your side.
We are an independent, anonymous, and private community who share resources, support, and talk it through every day. It helps to have a community behind you in a world where alcohol is the only addictive drug that people will question you for NOT using
More for your Sober Tool Box :
Last year some of our long term members shared their “Alcohol-Free Holiday Season” experience for our Boozemusings Blog Archive.
Here are some of those posts to Inspire you in this Sober Holiday Season
It’s a Gift Pack of Inspiration to Help You Keep Going