If you love to drink alcohol like me, there is no time of year quite like the holiday season. There are holiday-themed work happy hours, neighborhood Christmas potlucks complete with BYOB, booze flowing secret Santas, wine-centric cookie exchanges, appetizer and cocktail parties with church friends and lots of family gatherings with spiked eggnog and warm cider. You eat and drink your way through the busiest, often most stress-filled, time of the year. And it’s great…until it isn’t.
You wake-up regretting something you said, or you drive home when you should not have. You have gaps in your memory from nights where your holiday spirit took you a little too far, and shame from nights when your festive thirst was unquenchable. Drinking makes you feel euphoric, then the aftermath makes you feel worthless and miserable.
The seemingly ceaseless opportunities to drink are what makes the holiday season the very best time to quit drinking. Ridiculous you say?
If you quit in, let’s say, June, your major life-changing decision will lack the satisfaction that might just be required to keep you sober. You might have to skip a ballgame with the guys and awkwardly not drink at a happy hour celebrating some coworker’s birthday. That’s it. One or two teetotaling experiences where no one will care if you drink anyway. You’ll be miserable, feel like a pariah and complete your first sober month with little sense of accomplishment.
When you quit drinking in December, however, you’ll really feel like you’ve done something monumental. Think about it. In one short month, you’ll abstain through something like a dozen opportunities to overdrink and make an ass of yourself. That’s like twelve mornings when you can wake free from shame and regret, rested and ready to tackle the busiest time of the year. New Year’s day is all about resolutions and fresh starts. Imagine how good it will feel to hit January first with a month of drastically improved living already under your belt.
Are you ready? Do you want to get off the rollercoaster of celebration and hopelessness? Here’s how you can do it.
Lie like your life depends on it (because it does).
Alcohol is deadly. If you are worried about your drinking, it might just be a matter of time before booze takes your life. If you have concerns now, please remember that addiction is a progressive disease. It isn’t going to get better no matter how you try to moderate or exert willpower. Lie to save your life. Lie your way through the holiday season with great pride because you are taking the first step toward a healthy future. Think I’m being dramatic? Use the time you might have spent reading my suggestions to Google statistics on alcohol related deaths. Telling lies this month might be the most honorable decision you ever make.
Start by making a list of festive holiday invitations. Are there any you can decline without too much disruption? I’m not telling you to skip Christmas dinner with your inlaws, but do you really need to attend your coworker’s holiday open house thirty minutes away? Can’t you come up with an excuse to miss that one?
Next, make up reasons why you won’t be drinking at the season’s must attend events. Maybe you’re on antibiotics for a persistent sinus thing, or you have a poorly scheduled physical complete with blood work in the morning. Maybe you agreed to chaperone the youth group Christmas party later or you have to drive to the airport to pick-up your relatives – whatever. Just have your lies prepared and believable.
When party time rolls around, you’ve got to summon the inner strength to stick to your lies. It is white knuckle time. Be prepared for lots of peer pressure. Just stick to the plan no matter what. You are not drinking through the holidays. No one said anything about the rest of your life. You can make it through this one event-packed season. You can do just about anything for one month.
And when temptation gets to be too much, get the hell out of there.
Make an excuse. Disappear without saying goodbye. Climb out a window if you have to (on the ground floor, maybe second story max). This is your month of self preservation. Don’t worry about anyone’s feelings or the impression you leave when you bail. This isn’t about them. It’s about you.
Plan you lies. Tell your lies. When your lies aren’t working, tuck your tail and run. And do all of that with pride because you are trying to save your own life.
If you don’t think your drinking is a problem, this advice probably sounds utterly ridiculous. If you are worried about your drinking but have never tried to quit, this might sound like the plan of a weak, insecure loser. But if you’ve tried and failed and tried again and failed again (like I did at least a half dozen times), this just might be the perfect time to try again.
Think about it. You’ll get through the drinkingest month of the year sober, alert, pride intact and thankful. When that’s over, you can glide through January and February (the two least festive months ever) on the strength of your holiday accomplishments. You can make it sober all the way to the doorstep of Saint Patrick’s Day with a little planning, lying and running during the most wonderful time of the year.
Don’t underestimate the spiritual nature of the holiday season. For most of us, it’s not just about winter porters and bottomless mimosas. For most of us, it is among the most sacred times on our religious calendars – whether we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Festivus. Sobriety is about not drinking alcohol. Recovery, however, is about finding the person we were meant to be. Starting that deeply spiritual journey during a meaningful period of religious introspection surrounded by family can be powerful. Maybe even lasting. And if you have to lie and run to start the journey, I promise you, God with understand.
Quitting drinking is both the most difficult and most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life. It seems so counterintuitive to try to start to climb this steep and treacherous mountain during the season of the drink, but there are so many little milestones and hurdles you can overcome in such a compact period that it might just be your best shot at success. Sustained sobriety requires exchanging shame for pride and self-loathing for self-worth. Getting through the holidays sober is a major accomplishment and a great start to recovery. And it is the very best time to get a little closer to God without a booze blockade standing between you.
I’m working on a detailed guide to early sobriety for people like me for whom Alcoholics Anonymous or a 30 days stint in a rehab facility are not realistic options. If you would like to be among the first to receive my roadmap to recovery when it is completed, please subscribe to receive my blog posts via email. I promise not to sell your information or inundate you with messages, and you can safely unsubscribe at any time.
Do you remember when you were a kid and the holidays were magical? What happened? Why does this month full of promise always end in stressful regret? Do you want the magic back? What could it possibly hurt to take your first step toward discovering who you really are with a sober holiday season this time around? If you don’t like what you find, you can go back to drinking your way through the holidays again next year.
But maybe, just maybe, when you clear away the haze of intoxication, you’ll find the magic again.