M(3), 11/10: You Don’t Have to Be Mangled to Be Merry
The past few weeks, my Monday morning meetings have been nothing that has lit my imagination on fire. Not bad by any stretch, there truly is no such thing as a bad meeting, but nothing overly inspiring, which of course makes chronicling it difficult.
I am pleased to report, not so with today’s meeting!
It is the second Monday, so the literature rotation required me to select from Living Sober, the book that gives the practical, easy to read advice for those new to recovery. There was no hesitation as I opened to the table of contents. Since I feel we are at the opening of what I like to think of as Drinking Season (Thanksgiving Week through the next working day after New Year’s), I knew to look for a chapter that involved planning around drinking occasions. And the book did not disappoint. We read Chapter 26: “Being Wary of Drinking Occasions.”
What happened at this morning is what I love most about meetings: newcomers opening up and sharing their fears and worries about staying sober, experienced members sharing their wisdom, everyone leaving with feeling of enrichment and solidarity. Fortuitously, we had the biggest turnout in weeks (15), and an almost perfect mix of sobriety: about a third with a year or less, a third somewhere between 1 and 10 years, and third with over 20 years. This variety of experience really helps with a discussion like “how to handle drinking celebrations,” because the perspective on this subject changes over time (thankfully the perspective gets better and better!).
For myself, the biggest takeaway from the reading, and this was difficult to pick, there is A LOT of good advice in this chapter, was simply: do not worry about anyone’s opinion of your decision to be sober, focus instead on the best decisions you can make to shore up that commitment. In early sobriety, this lesson can be excruciatingly difficult to adopt, and examples of not doing it are many. For example, in early sobriety, I was appalled at the suggestion that I skip a drinking function. I mean, are you kidding? I can’t skip that party, the whole family will be there! What will they think if I don’t show up?
Tell people I don’t drink, no way I am going to tell people that…. what would they think of me?
If I don’t drink at the party, people will notice, and then what?
That list of rhetorical questions could go on and on, and I bought into every single one of them. As a matter of fact, for a long time I lived in defiance of this good advice (you don’t understand my life, so don’t you tell me that I can just avoid drinking situations), and the predictable outcome happened: I did not stay sober.
So, at least from this recovered person’s perspective, I validate the advice: worry about yourself during the early stages of recovery. Worry about one thing about yourself: staying sober. And, I’m sorry to say, avoid drinking situations as much as you possibly can. It will not be the big deal you are imagining it will be, and, even if it is, the drama will be short-lived.
From my sharing, everyone else that shared had fantastic ideas on how to stay sober during holiday gatherings. Here are just a few, some are reiterated from the book, but all are things these attendees regularly do:
- Give someone a call before you are heading to the event, and then call them the next morning to debrief. This piece of advice came from my friend with nearly 30 years of sobriety, she says she still does it. It helps her to connect with friends in recovery, and, as she puts it, “Alcohol is stronger than my 30 years, and sometimes the emotional hangover is just as bad as a physical one, talking helps!”
- Another friend, with almost the same amount of sobriety, is a professional with the occupational hazard of regular, mandatory attendance of drinking events. His trick, employed for so long now that people say it for him, is to deflect: someone asks him if he wants a drink, he declines politely and immediately starts talking about the upcoming menu, and his hopes for cocktail weenies. He is now known for his love of them, and that is what they offer him, not a drink!
- He also gave this great advice: No is a complete sentence. If someone asks you if you would like a drink, you are perfectly entitled to say, “No, thank you.” There is positively no need for further explanation!
- One attendee says he regularly takes the humorous tack: someone asks him if he would like a drink, his answer is, “Oh no, you don’t have enough for me.”
- Another person says she has a lot of success throwing out the “designated driver” card, she finds people instantly respond with understanding to that.
- I added my two cents to this advice melange: I am well-known in my circles for my love of fountain sodas (specifically Diet Pepsi in case you are interested). My strategy, that I still employ to this day, is to arrive at the party with a fountain soda in my hand. People already know I love it, and convenience stores are always available to assist me in this strategy. It has been a great success: no one asks you if you need a drink if you’ve already got one in your hand!
- Two more reiterated pieces of advice: showing up a bit on the later side, and definitely leaving on the earlier side, of a drinking event will save you lots of hassles when it comes to being asked what you are drinking and dealing with drunk people. These are strategies that I continue to use with great success at drinking bashes (which, in my family, are all major holidays).
- The bottom line with all these great bits of advice: no matter which path you take, I promise you are thinking about it way, WAY more than anyone else at that social function. Once you make the decision not to drink, people move on. The vast majority of people do not care what beverage is in your glass!
So much more great advice was given, so many great questions asked, it would be hard to fit it all into one blog post. But the best part of the meeting, that has me smiling still: two of the five or so “newbies” have less than 90 days, and admitted to me that they are really struggling. As one of them put it, “So many Day One’s, it’s hard to keep track!” Oh boy, can I remember that feeling. This is the kind of meeting that serves the newcomer the best, so I am over the moon that they were here to gain all of this wisdom.
Plus I am hoping to try that cocktail weenie strategy and see if it works!
I’d love to hear from all of you… any good holiday survival tips?
Like the klutz I am becoming in middle age, I sprained my ankle over the weekend. I am walking so much better today, so the miracle is the appreciation of the ability to walk without a limp!
Posted on November 10, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged 12 step, 12 step program, AA, Addiction, Alcoholic Anonymous, Alcoholism, God, Living Sober, Meeting, Mental Health, Miracle, Monday, Recovery, Self-Help, Sobriety, Substance Abuse, Support group, Twelve Step, Twelve-Step Program. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.