Here come the holidays. In American cultural myth, it’s a time for good food, good company, and good times. If you are struggling with recovery from alcoholism, it’s also a time of stress and challenges. Alcoholic beverages often make an occasion feel celebratory. How do you join in without feeling obliged to drink?
If the alcoholism has been kept as a secret from some or all of the extended family, how do you and those who support you manage without blowing your “cover”? If it’s not a secret, you may feel tense and even a little paranoid that everyone else will watch and monitor you. If the last family social gathering was a disaster because of your drinking, you may be approaching the holiday get-togethers with some embarrassment and shame.
People in recovery know what this is like. Navigating family events that include alcohol and that may well also include people who are problem drinkers can feel like a setup. How can you handle the situation and, yes, even relax and enjoy your family’s efforts to celebrate the season?
Stay focused on your own recovery.
Once in recovery, people often start to notice other people’s problem behavior. As they say in AA, “Mind your own business.” It’s enough to work on your own issues. It’s not your job to work on others’. In fact, focusing on other people’s lack of control around food or drink or smoking or whatever is a great way to get off track from your own goal.
Take responsibility for your past behavior.
There may be family members who feel hurt and resentful about how you’ve behaved in the past and who choose the holiday meal as a place to air their grievances. No one knows better than you do the shame that comes with this kind of conversation. Briefly remind people that, yes, you are sorry for the past but that you are in recovery now. It’s an important opportunity to practice not being in denial. Then change the subject to something else — like asking other people to share something new and good from their lives.