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Tis’ the Season…Part One to Help you Handle the Holidays

Holidays Can Be Difficult

Tis’ the season for holiday parties. If you are trying to be alcohol free, the big question many of us will face is should we attend the parties or should we stay home and avoid the situation entirely? It really depends on how you are feeling. If you are a little shaky about being around alcohol and feel that you may drink, then it is better not to attend. However, with a good plan in mind you can be prepared for most unexpected situations you may encounter.

If you have numerous parties to attend, just concentrate on one at a time. There are many types of parties, as different guests will attend different functions, so each party may require you to prepare for each one individually.

Visualization

Begin by imagining yourself at the first party. Picture the guests, the atmosphere, the crowds, the drinking, and the smells. Feel the excitement. Picture yourself having fun without alcohol. Allow the focus of your visualization to be about the fun. If you don’t know how to do that yet, picture everything but the alcohol; start there. In your mind, can you see anything that could trigger a craving for alcohol? Say for example that someone who you really don’t want to run into is at the party. Picture yourself handling that situation. See, that was easy. Using your imagination navigate through the entire evening.

Look Your Best

Now it’s time to dress up and look like a million bucks. Be proud of who you are and how great you look. There is nothing like sobriety to bring out rosy cheeks, sparkly eyes or a devilish grin. If you look good you will feel good and you will exude confidence. Even if you don’t feel confident–fake it. “Act as if ye have faith, and faith shall be given to you. To put it another way, fake it till you make it.”–Aaron Sorkin. If you look confident you might as well be confident.

Mingle

So you decided to go and now you’re at the party, what to do? Mingle! Don’t hide in a corner. It’s a party! Try and open yourself up to allow people in. You may just meet your next best friend, or you may find someone with the same interests that you have. It may be easier to be a good listener, than to do the talking and this can offer positive results for both you and the other person. Take a step outside your safety zone, as you may realize it may not be so safe. Allow yourself to be interested in the people around you, you will start to relax and have more fun. If the party has planned activities such as a live auction or karaoke, help out or join in. Don’t forget to dance.

No is a Complete Sentence

No is a complete sentence. Have you ever noticed that people feel compelled to give more information than they’re asked? Here’s a classic example: Q: “Do you know what time it is”; A: “Yes, it’s almost 10 o’clock.” Clearly the question was answered after saying “yes”, and although in this scenario it might be considered rude to not give a more elaborate answer, I think you get the point. It would seem that our need to explain everything may stem from our rationalizing the guilt we harbor. Yet you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. You can refuse a drink and leave it at that.

If you feel that you need to excuse why you are not drinking, plan what you are going to say in advance. This will help you from feeling awkward or embarrassed. Some people have no problem telling friends that they have quit drinking. Believe me that they will be happy for you. Here are a few suggestions that you can utilize should you feel the need to offer an answer. You may choose to say that you want to look after your health. Or you may choose something more flippant and say, “I got all my drinking done in the past 20 years.” Another position to take is one that will not only give you a suitable answer, but put you in a proactive position, “I’m designated driver tonight, so I’m going to skip the drink tonight.” Who knows you may force someone else to think twice before they get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking. Regardless of the tone you choose, playing out scenarios ahead will help you feel more comfortable and secure with yourself.

Be Prepared

Another tip, is when you step up to the bar to order a non-alcoholic beverage, know what you are going to order in advance. Order something that you enjoy and ask the bartender to make it look festive. I like ginger ale and cranberry with a twist of lime in a fancy glass. My husband enjoys virgin Caesars that are made with clamato juice, Worcestershire sauce and spices. So get creative!

Tips to Remember

Consider these points before you head out:

  • Don’t arrive at a party hungry, thirsty, tired or angry. Any of these circumstances can trigger a craving. Once a craving is activated it will change the way you think. Some people call it “stinking thinking”. It’s when the alcohol identity tries to tell you that this time it will be different, and that this time you can drink without consequences like everyone else.
  • Hydrate throughout the day. Try and drink at least 8 glasses of water.
  • Grab some quiet time, and try to get some rest at some point in the day before you head out. Give the body and the brain a chance to slow down.
  • Make sure you eat something nutritious to level out your blood sugars. This will keep your moods from becoming erratic.
  • Avoid feeling angry. I wouldn’t recommend going to the party at all. Anger is another mask for craving, only slyer and more creative. Anger can get you drunk so fast you won’t even know what hit you. Almost as bad as the getting drunk is the anger, as we tend to personify anger validating it as a credible scapegoat.
  • Have your own vehicle, or have a plan so that you leave the party when you want and on your terms. It’s all well and good to car pool, but if you are on shaky ground with alcohol, you really want to be able to leave when you start to feel agitated or uncomfortable.
  • Always keep enough cash on you for a cab or other emergency. (I also like to keep another set of house keys hidden as well.)

Get Support

If you are really having trouble staying clean and sober, you may need support. I watched on The Biggest Loser where a participant said that he knew what he needed to do to lose weight, but was unable to do it. Now that he had a trainer, he did so much better and in fact wouldn’t have succeeded without that support. Sometimes all a person really needs is someone in their corner to help them through. If you have had your moment of clarity and really need to stop drinking, then get some help. Moments of clarity come at the most unexpected times. Whether it is Christmas, New Years, Easter, summer holidays, or other occasions; if you want to stop drinking get a coach or support system. Start enjoying your special moments without alcohol. Start enjoying yourself, it may take learning some new perspectives, but you’re so worth it.

After all that–get going to your party and have fun!

Stress and Drinking are Self Defeating

Stress

Stress has been described as being “the greatest single contributor to illness in our time.” It has been estimated that up to two-thirds of all visits to family physicians are stress related. A person struggling with alcohol dependence is no stranger to stress or its affect on the body. Learning to manage stress-triggered drinking can be extremely beneficial.

Drinking Cycle

The drinking cycle of an alcohol dependent person may look like this:
STRESS—DRINKING—GUILT—SHAME —MORE STRESS —DRINKING—LOW SELF-ESTEEM —DEPRESSION —MORE STRESS—MORE DRINKING

Stress is self-defeating. It is usually shame based or fear based. Stress for an alcoholic leads to more drinking sprees and the merry-go-round can continue until death.

Letting Go

I’m sure you know or have heard of the “Serenity Prayer” – it says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” We sometimes think that if other people would just change, life would be good. Understanding what we can and can’t control can help us cope with the daily stress in our life. Sometimes we just have to let things go. Wayne Dyer a motivational speaker I’m familiar with once said, “Never underestimate your ability to change yourself and never overestimate your ability to change someone else.”

Things We can Control

Here are some things that are within our control: our own opinions, aspirations, desires, and the things that repel us. These things are part of our inner lives and as such, are directly under our influence. We always have a choice about what goes on in our inner lives.

Things We can’t Control

Outside our control, however, are such things as who are parents are, what color of skin we have, if we’re born rich or poor, our genetic makeup. These things are externals and are therefore not our concern. Trying to control or to change what we can’t only results in torment. Also, when we attempt to take on the affairs of others, we will always become frustrated and anxious.

Put Stresses into Categories

Here’s an exercise that you can do to help troubleshoot the stress in your life. Make a list of the sources of stress that affect your life. Separate them into 2 categories, The Stress I Can Change & The Stress I Can’t Change. Now keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your concern. Other people will behave as they do. Circumstances will often not meet our expectations. We get disappointed if we don’t get what we want. Our desires may be unreasonable. Stop worrying about the things that are outside your control. Work on the category with things that you can change.

Stress Plus Drinking

Second, acknowledge that drinking is not going to solve your stress problem. Acknowledging it is a step you choose when you’re frustrated and either can’t think of other options or are too frustrated to find other options. Drinking is going to increase the stress you feel and the vicious cycle will continue and accelerate. Acknowledge that better solutions are available to you right now; you simply need to be open to the possibility to try them.

Relieving Stress

You can find a quiet place to slow down and do some deep breathing. Keeping your mouth closed, breathe in through your nose and feel the air fill up your stomach, your lungs, hold it and then blow out through your mouth. Do this 4 or 5 times. Concentrate on each breath. This breathing exercise will help to lower your stress.

Keep breathing at a steady pace as this exercise isn’t meant to be rushed through. Rushing this along defeats the purpose and won’t help you achieve the calm state you need to de-stress. Once you are calmer, decide if what you are stressed about is really important. Does it really concern YOU? If it isn’t important – let it go and walk away. Ask yourself if you stay in this stressful situation, will it trigger a drinking spree? If it will, then definitely remove yourself from the situation. In the past, what would you have normally done? How can you change the pattern? Can you make a decision to do some self care? For e.g. can you call a friend, take a walk, talk things over with a co-worker or family member, confide in a coach?

Nurture Yourself

Each time you make the choice to nurture yourself rather than turning to alcohol, the Real Identity gets stronger and the Alcohol Identity weakens. Each time you can weaken the Alcohol Identity you are one step closer to getting alcohol out of your life and getting back to who you really are. Stress and how you choose to handle stress is actually an opportunity to get stronger and stronger. How good is that!

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The material on our website is for informational purposes only, and is intended as a supplement, not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health-care provider. Read more...