When I launched into sobriety 7 months ago I’d forgotten about the mandatory month long bender that accompanied the holidays. When summer was over I thought the rest would be a breeze, but now that Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is readily approaching the Blah-lidays are really setting in. Here are some of the myths surrounding sobriety during the holidays that have proved to be false.
1. You’ll be SDD free
This acronym used to stand for Seasonal Depressive Disorder, but now looks like Sobriety Depressive Dysfunction. Where you once dealt with the winter grays by turning into a social twister that could detect even the slightest party you’re now dreading the invites that seem to be coming at you from an unstoppable tennis ball dispenser. Since you dumped all your old drinking contacts for new AA (Albeit Annoying [as shit]) enthusiastic home karaoke party junkies it seems as though the SDD has kicked up to clinical levels. The worst part is that the idea of being around people seems as appealing as having your body crunched into an accordian and set on fire.
2. You’re family will forgive you for hitting on Uncle Keith, falling on the turkey and almost burning down the gazebo at grandmas.
It feels as though these things happened ten years ago to you, but everyone else remembers them like they were from last year (the more accurate timeline). Since you weren’t there (mentally) it’s easy to move through life without the feelings associated with being a drunken failure, but somehow the family wants to put you to the test to see if you’ve REALLY changed by showering you with guilt like it’s fake snow on a Christmas tree to see if you’ll react and cut out or suddenly be the most exhaulted zen like creature on earth with the ability to apologize at will so they can feel validated at last for the rotten things they said about you. Nope.
3. You’ll be riding a “pink cloud”
With your newfound ability to experience pleasure without self-medicating.Don’t be surprised if the pink cloud never comes and instead your forecast shows more of a brownish-grey with black spots. You may not even be riding it, it could potential just be following you like a crazy AA stalker.
4. Food will taste better
Now this myth is actually true, the problem is that food will taste so good that it will become a substitute for the nurturing lost starting with your teenage years. You will feel as though you finally have the familial love you’ve been striving for as you watch Charlie Brown Christmas with your friends bucket O’ chicken, bucket o’ cole slaw, bucket o’ snickers and 2 liter Peter. Why you named him Peter is a mystery, but could have something to do with the high school crush you were too shy to ever talk to that you saw loading the car with his happy family in the driveway on the way to your mom’s house to help her cry through the first Christmas without dad.
5. You’ll have more money
It did seem like you had money aplenty, but then the month of December hit and when the demand of selflessness hit your desk the stress launched you into buying a 4oo dollar haircut. You now look great with your purple balayage and modern mullet, but as Christmas approaches your dreams of getting the family solar powered survival kits has been reduced to travel mugs from the dollar store filled with off-brand chocolate kisses and Christmas cards made from cutting a square out of wrapping paper. At least you bought gifts this year you tell yourself as you ask someone for a dollar in the parking lot.
So now it’s Christmas and your haircut cost 400% more than any gift you’ve brought to the party, the only one who seems excited about it is Uncle Keith who brought extra eggnog this year and as you approach the house your gag reflex is triggered by your sober red-headed cousin Eric singing “one week” by Bare Naked ladies. As you enter the maw of the dreaded party you can’t help but think if it’d be better if you were drunk. Then you see grandma’s gazebo through the back that has been rebuilt and beautifully strung with lights and a delicious enclosed buffet and you finally feel like your riding a pinkish-orange cloud as you think “I hope they have lot’s of deviled eggs in there.”
Being my first year sober through the Holidays, I can see it blows. First years are hard for everyone that is trying to abstain from their addiction; Pavlov and his theory of classical conditioning explain why. Some people use the word "trigger", I say "association". The first year of sobriety we have no other association with seasons, events, smells, interactions than those that revolved around our addiction. I drank kayaking, at baby showers (yes, I got fucked up at my friends baby shower), after a workout, in the summer, in the winter and yes, during Thanksgiving and Christmas. When summer came on this year and I realized I was going to try and dedicate myself to being sober I had to white knuckle it through the sidewalk eateries, the heat on my chest reminding me how good a cold beer would be, the smell of the flowers, the excitement of freedom. Excitement is a triggering emotion for me even more than sadness or anxiety. The call of adventure impregnates my loins and I feel the rush to the call of fresh experiences (not really impregnating, but sometimes). Unfortunately, the fresh, new experiences are freckled with nightmarish remembrances. So the first year is paving new pathways, creating new associations. Subsequent years you can say "Oooh that smell reminds me of ice cream!" or some new replacement, some better memory. Some of the memories I have of drinking will never be topped by what I experience in sobriety and I just have to admire and observe those for what they are. I can look at Vegas on a post card and think "What a great time I had there" and never step a foot there sober. Not even cause my Vegas experience was amazing, but I'll never top it sober cause the reality is that I hate Vegas.
A writer living in Portland, OR looking to meet Chuck Palahniuk. Single mom to 2 boys, sales agent and lawyer-in-training.