I’m going to be honest. Sometimes my family drives me crazy. Unfortunately, the stress of the season only seems to enhance the frustration making it difficult to have sober holidays. My mother, bent on giving her children (now adults) the Christmas she never had, insists on having a dinner fit to feed a small army. My sister floats in, taking charge. I end up feeling as if I don’t exist. And my own daughter, splitting her time between several families, never seems to stick around for much more than an hour.
But the worse part is that as the holidays approach, I am reminded that my son, who died in 2018, won’t be taking his seat at the dinner table. The jellied cranberry that he loved sits in front of me untouched.
In fact, according to American Addiction Centers, “When it comes to holidays, the period that starts before Christmas and ends on New Year’s Day accounts for some of the highest incidents of binge drinking and related public health problems.”
All this makes it difficult to enjoy sober holidays.
In the Old Days, I Avoided Sober Holidays
Previously, I would drink the holiday away. Often I hid a little bottle of alcohol in my purse. Then, as I became frustrated, I would slip off to the bathroom for a taste of relief. In the past two years, however, I have had sober holidays. Don’t get me wrong. Getting sober has been the best decision I have ever made. Sometimes, however, I can’t help but think of my old friend and how alcohol seemed to help me deal with difficult family members.
If you have a history with drugs and alcohol but now found sobriety, you may have approached this holiday thinking, how do I deal with these people who frustrate me without alcohol? How do I have a sober holiday and avoid a relapse?
One way to do this is to approach them with a different mindset. Instead of focusing on how frustrating your family can be, try understanding them by considering these ideas.
Their Priorities Might Not Be the Same as Yours
My son-in-law’s family spends a lot of money purchasing gifts for the grandchildren. I, on the other hand, would rather focus on things we can do together. As a result, I end up feeling inadequate in the gift-giving arena. My feelings lead to depression even before the holiday begins as I know my grandchildren will have less appreciation for the presents they get from me.
Clearly, our priorities are not the same.
Similar to my own mother, we all focus on giving the children things we lacked when growing up. However, to my understanding, what they lacked were material things, and what I lacked was time spent with my mother. When I look at it this way, I find that I have more self-compassion and am less bothered by my gift own choices.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
We don’t always know what the people around us are going through. Their circumstances may be what’s driving them to do the things they do or act the way they act. For example, it hurts that my daughter never eats with us and usually only stays long enough for the gift-giving portion of the day.
But if I try, it’s easy for me to understand the shoes she is wearing. In fact, it was just a few years ago that I was wearing similar shoes. When my children were little, we traveled from my mother’s house to my father-in-law’s house to enjoy the morning. We then went to my mother-in-law’s house trying to give our children memories with all their grandparents. Often, what I really wanted to do was have a quiet Christmas day to myself. When I remember what I went through as the children were growing up, I am reminded that my daughter is struggling to juggle many families as well.
Ask Yourself Why They Bother You So Much
Truly, I shouldn’t feel bothered when my sister takes over because most of the time I would rather be doing something else anyway. And yet, I do. By taking a close look at my own feelings when this happens, I can discover clues as to why her actions bother me.
Usually, I find myself feeling like a third wheel and insignificant to the rest of the family. While I know that I am not, these feelings remind me that my sister’s relationship with my mother is different than my own. They have things in common that I can’t relate to. Those projections translate as frustration with her and inadequacy within myself.
Focus on their Positive Qualities
Regardless of how much your family bothers you, you can always find good qualities in them. That’s what you should be focusing on. When you only see the negative, it’s easy to get caught up in the things that frustrate you about your family. However, by giving more weight to the things that are great about them you can gain a higher respect for them that will lead to more patience in the long run.
My mother always created wonderful holiday experiences for me. My sister takes care of the tasks that I’d rather not. Finally, my niece has a wonderful laugh that adds joy to the house.
Consider How the Holidays May be Difficult for Them as Well
The holidays present difficult times for a lot of people. For one, we set up expectations that can’t always be met, leading to failure and disappointment. Also, many of us suffer from loss during the holidays. Family members who have attended holiday dinners for years are no longer alive to take their place at the table. Divorce and separation change the way holidays are celebrated. You may no longer have the ability to give the way you use to. All of these things add stress and lead to depression, making sober holiday celebration difficult.
Are You Struggling with the Idea of Sober Holidays?
If so, you may find a coach that can talk you through them to be beneficial. As your sobriety coach, I can listen when you need it and provide approaches and tips that guide you past your anxiety so that you don’t have to drink. As an impartial listener, I can ask you the questions you need in order to see your family with compassion to help you move past your family struggles.
Whether you have 24-hours or five years in sobriety, a sobriety coach may be just the tool you need to have a sober holiday. Contact me to get started with coaching today.