My First Sober Christmas
An article from a reader

I got sober in early November a couple of years ago. I hadn’t planned it. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. My life was toxic, I was unemployed, my body was falling apart, and my wife was on the verge of walking out on me. Twenty years of heavy drinking had caught up with me. Thank goodness, I had a moment of clarity, and at that moment, I saw I had to stop. I saw I was in freefall, on my way to hitting a rock bottom that would destroy me.

So I stopped, there and then. But I didn’t know what to do next. I went to AA because I had no knowledge of any alternatives. I had never attended a meeting before. I found myself in a world full of people with horrific stories and a recovery program that I found incomprehensible. But I kept going – almost every night, in fact. I needed somewhere else to go in the evening to keep me out of the pub, and AA was available every night. I was grateful for that.

My first couple of weeks sober were hard. I felt like my brain had been put in a spin dryer. I was trying to make sense of AA’s literature, but they don’t make it easy. Some of the text of the Big Book is archaic. It so much needs updating. I would have loved to have had a copy of “The 10-Day Alcohol Detox Plan” to guide me back then, it would have made quitting so much easier, but that book had yet to be written.

After that first couple of weeks, things got easier. I started to enjoy my new sober life. I kept going to the AA meetings. I’m sure I would have relapsed without them. However, I still didn't feel a part of AA. I met people who were ten or twenty years sober and, while I admired their achievements, I didn't want to become one of them. Living the rest of my life in recovery was not my goal. I wanted to live normally.

I felt I needed to find another way. But Christmas was looming, which was a concern. I hadn’t had a sober Christmas since I was about fourteen years old. Usually, Christmas was a non-stop booze-fest. So was New Year. And so were the days in between. I would usually drink solidly for a fortnight. Could I really get through it without a drink?

I read frantically, looking for inspiration. Reading “Alcohol and You” was a breakthrough. For the first time, I understood what had happened to me, how I got into such a mess, and how to prevent it from happening again. 

It gave me an idea. Rather than see Christmas as a problem, why not see it as an opportunity? First, I told my wife and kids that we would be going to see friends and family over the holiday and that I would drive. By committing to being the driver, I had big motivation to keep sober, as the police would be on the lookout for anyone with a drop of alcohol in their system. Second, I said I would do the cooking – much to the amazement of my wife, as until that time, putting a pizza in the oven was my greatest culinary achievement. But my logic was that this would give me a big project to take my attention from drinking. 

It worked well. Over the holiday, we sometimes went out to pubs and restaurants to eat. But strangely, when I saw people drinking, I felt somehow removed from it. I didn’t feel left out, as I thought I would. To me, the drinkers seemed to be up to something strange. I kind of wondered why they were doing it. I’d had what “The 10-Day Alcohol Detox Plan” calls a mind-shift.

My overall feeling over the holiday period was one of freedom and relief. I could drive without worrying, I didn’t have to keep making runs to the recycling point to get rid of the embarrassing quantity of empty bottles and cans, I saved a ton of money, I saved my marriage, and I felt physically better than I had in years.

Those first few weeks were among the toughest of my life, because I wasn’t just giving up drinking – I had multiple life issues to deal with as well. In fact, I'm still rebuilding my life now. But I think back on those weeks, those meetings, and that sober Christmas with affection. It was worth it.

Good luck to you.