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Thank you for sharing your sobriety with all of us at Women for Sobriety. Please enjoy these holiday selections from our Legacy Literature collection.
New Life, New Holidays
by Deb (originally published Nov. 2003)
At this point in my life I can honestly say that I love the holidays. I look forward to them and thoroughly enjoy them while they are here. I didn’t always feel this way. I used to dread the holidays. My bad mood would begin when the decorations went up around Halloween; now I smile and begin to get in the mood.
I remember that first holiday season, in 1999, when I was trying to stop drinking. I started trying in September, after I’d discovered the WFS message board on AOL. I was having a rough time of it. It was so difficult, because while I didn’t want to drink any more, I wasn’t yet willing to do the work I needed to do. I’d have periods of sobriety and then slip. Thanksgiving came and went without mishap; I remained sober. I remember being very proud of myself and thought I was on my way to a sober holiday season. I talked endlessly about it, but in retrospect I realize that I wasn’t quite ready yet. It is a process and I was just beginning to walk my way through it.
The past couple of years Christmas had become an emotional minefield for me. I lost both of my parents and I felt that I had to fill their roles, particularly at the holidays. Being the oldest of 7 children I not only felt responsible for myself and my emotions, but for those of my siblings as well.
Since the death of my parents, I’d held Christmas at my place. I would whip myself into a frenzy weeks before, spooling and worrying until the day of, when I’d be a nervous, emotional wreck. I had my mother’s tree, and all of her ornaments and decorations. I thought I was honoring her memory and keeping on with the family tradition. It proved to be a bittersweet remembrance.
That Christmas of 1999 I promised myself I wouldn’t drink. I told my family and friends, hoping this would hold me accountable. The day I decorated the tree was just too much for me. The ornaments and holiday music took me back to the past and I found myself immersed in tears and self-pity. I remembered someone had left a bottle of vodka here. I found it and drank half of it. I was a wine drinker, I rarely drank hard liquor and this scared me to death. I was violently ill the next day, which made me all the more emotional. I drank to lessen the hangover and numb my feelings and I stayed on a drunk the entire week of Christmas. My family and friends did not see me drink; I began to hide it. Another first. I’d sneak upstairs and gulp glasses of wine I had hidden in my closet. I cried and felt so sorry for myself. I did not go to my in-laws on Christmas day; I told them I was sick. I was, but not in the way they thought. I stayed home, alone, in bed, with a bottle of wine. I do believe this is one of the lowest points of my life and in a way I am grateful it happened because it opened my eyes and motivated me to stop drinking. The lows to which I had sunk scared me. The fact that my husband left me at home, alone, on Christmas Day, disgusted with me, scared me even more. I didn’t want to be like that.
It was at this point that I began to walk the walk, to truly embrace sobriety and want a productive, happy, sober life. I think I finally understood that sobriety was more than not just drinking. To change my life I would need to change my attitude and behaviors. I realized there was a program behind the WFS message board; that it was not just a place to go to socialize and talk about quitting drinking. I am pleased to say that was the last drunken holiday I spent.
By Christmas of 2000 I was 9 months sober and felt better able to handle things. I still wanted Christmas at my home but I did many things differently. During the summer I went through my mother’s ornaments and decorations and divided them up with my brothers. I kept just a few things, but I didn’t bring them out that year. Instead I decorated my ficus tree with white lights and bought some new ornaments. It was different and fun! My heart was so much lighter! I also changed the menu, served something healthy and light, food that I liked and not what my mom always served. I was nervous about this, as my siblings are creatures of habit, but it was well received. In fact, the night was a huge success. The next day I went to my in-laws. I went with a positive attitude and I had a lovely time. I used to dread going, playing out dramas in my head on the drive over. This time I was respectful and nice, and I found that they treated me in kind. I remember joking on the way home how everyone had changed, but I knew in my heart I was the one that was changing.
Now holidays are completely different. I’ve experienced three sober Christmas’ and I no longer hold them at my home; I don’t feel the need to do it any longer. My brother and his wife now host our family get-togethers. They have a larger place and enjoy doing it. This is a giant relief to me!
The last couple of years I’ve been involved in an ornament exchange on the AOL WFS message board. It is fun and it gave me back the spirit of Christmas. I buy a special set of Christmas cards for my WFS sisters and look forward to writing them. I’ve made a few close friends on that message board and enjoy making or picking out their gifts, usually starting around Thanksgiving. I take this spirit of love and giving throughout the holiday season.
The first year I was sober my husband and I started a new tradition - we go to the ballet to see the Nutcracker. We go to an afternoon matinee and then out for an early supper afterwards. This has become one of my favorite Christmas rituals.
Instead of trying to re-create the past, or get caught up in unrealistic expectations I’ve learned to do the holidays my way. I keep them simple and have re-introduced the true spirit of them. I take each day for the special day that it is and try not to get caught up in all the hoopla. I have created new attitudes, new habits, and new rituals. Actually I’ve done that in my life as well. And it’s given me a new life! I’ve come a long way from that sad, drunken, scared little girl hiding in her closet drinking wine and I look forward to more growth and happiness. I could not have done it without the support of my WFS sisters, the WFS “New Life” Program, and the 13 Statements, my blueprints for life!
It’s truly a new life! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
by Marjorie (originally published Jan. 2003)
One Christmas, when I was still drinking, my husband and son braved a snowstorm to buy me a beautiful crystal carafe and six matching long stem glasses. When I became sober, one of my first acts was to put the crystal away in my hutch. It was a sad act because at that time I was feeling like I had lost a best friend.
Now that I am sober and truly enjoying life, I’m starting to question why the crystal has to stay in the hutch. Is there a written law that says only alcoholic beverages can be consumed from beautiful stemware? After all, my husband didn’t give this gift to me because he valued my alcoholism. He gave me the gift because he loves me.
When our children were little, we started a tradition of making “spritzers” as a treat while watching videos. We would mix ginger ale with either orange or cranberry juice so it would bubble and tickle their noses. This way they were getting soda, but also juice. (Funny how guarded I was about my children not having too much soda, yet I didn’t think twice about poisoning myself daily with alcohol!)
The holidays are a time to celebrate family ties and count our blessings. My plan for the holidays is to practice enthusiasm and drink “spritzers” from my gift of love. Life can be ordinary or it can be great. I’m choosing to be great and celebrate my sobriety!