Holiday Parties in Sobriety

IMG_0059Year two of holiday parties in sobriety, and a perfect opportunity to put some knowledge into practice.  A few tips I learned from trial and error last year but many were learned right here from my fellow sober bloggers.  Each and every one of you are deeply appreciated.   Hurrah for collective wisdom!

December 2014 saw quite a few holiday celebrations right here at home including a staff party, book club dinner party, Christmas  Eve dinner with extended family, and a three family Christmas dinner fete.  Home was a good place to be.  For one, hostessing kept me busy taking care of others.  The other key to celebrating at home is that it allows me to envision and carry out a plan without many curve balls thrown in.

The 3 keys to hosting parties and having great fun while sober this year turned out to be:

1.  Have a plan.  In early sobriety we spend a whole lot of time making plans.  What time will people arrive and leave? What will I drink?  What will others drink? Where can I get away for ten minutes from time to time to read recovery literature and refocus? Who is my support team at the event? Have I clarified their roles with them? Which AA meeting will I attend the day of the event?

2. Have another person handle the alcohol.  Don’t play the part of the suffering hero.  Just have someone else be the bartender.  At the end of the event, have the bartender pack up the bar and toss out the half finished drinks laying around. That person will be glad to help.

3.  Have fun.  Taking the time, making the time, to celebrate with friends is a new concept in my life.  Focusing on others helps me get out of my head which would normally be focused on the alcohol with laser vision, and opens up the world to the people in my life. Turns out my world was so small when drinking and I missed out on the amazingness around me.  Its time to enjoy friendship again.

Coming soon: the backstory of these keys. Because we all know, there’s always a backstory!

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Using Your Tools: Read Recovery Literature

Sometimes I wish that I could scoot ahead 24 hours in order to be able to look back and figure out if an odd mood or day is a real issue that needs to be grappled with or a simple oddity to be quietly noted.  For this past week, I’ve found myself getting easily agitated.  Along with that, I realize that my level of complacency is growing.  Its time to go back and review the tools learned in outpatient care and incorporate more of them into daily situations.

The 4th of July means a big ol’ party at our house.  This tradition started before we were even married, living in a small house in the sketchy part of town, where we’d BBQ and at night everyone would climb up on the roof to watch the town fireworks being launched just a few blocks away.  Fireworks are a must, and our town is crazy for them, even though all fireworks are technically illegal in the county.  These days we’re into one huge “brick” of high flying spectacular fireworks.  When the kids were at different ages we went through sparkler phases, firecrackers and anything else loud and annoying, and mortars for blowing up any type of fruit or vegetable available.  All good fun, to be sure.

This year, of course, was my first year to host this celebration while sober. Honestly, the last two years were much, much harder than this year.  You see, I had to make sure I drank enough all day to feel normal, have extra alcohol hidden during the party so I could fortify my drinks while looking like a normal drinker, and all the time making sure I could think clearly enough to host a party with illegal fireworks.  Phew!  This year, it was just about doing everything sober.  Just.  Turns out that the pre-party preparations are so much easier when with a clear head! Friends drinking beer and soda wasn’t a bother. Conversation was easy and playing with water balloons is always fun and funny.  But a few hours in, that feeling of being uncomfortable in my own skin set in.  Its pretty creepy.  While not sold on the idea of using tools to make a situation better, there have been instances when they have been useful to divert my crazy thinking enough to get through the situation.

Reading recovery literature was my choice during the party.  Sneaking upstairs for ten minutes was easy.  Picking up a few daily thought books, one spoke to me.  “Free at last, free at last …”  Yes, to spend this time right now free from the grips of alcohol’s ugly hold was freeing.  Focus on free, focus on free.  The sensation of being uncomfortable in my own skin didn’t fully subside, but in my mind I had my own mini celebration of freedom.  Fireworks, indeed.