After an extended period of time in recovery, staying sober essentially becomes second nature. The obsession is lifted, life gets full and good, and it is often not too difficult to avoid temptation altogether. We just go about our day-to-day lives, and things conveniently fall into place around us. Every so often we get invited to join our coworkers for happy hour, or we casually walk past an old watering hole, disdainfully observing others drinking with impunity (and apparently having a grand old time). In moments such as these, it is not uncommon for us to slip briefly into self-pity and defeatism, wondering what juicy office gossip we are missing out on; why others can quit after one or two cocktails, while we go on drinking until we vomit, blackout, or both. Thoughts such as these are often quite fleeting, seeing as we have been equipped with the tools necessary to counteract these insane and detrimental deliberations. We play the tape forward, call a sober support, and rapidly return to a rational mindset.
Staying Sober and Self-Pity
However, depending on the day, this process may be somewhat difficult to carry out. On New Years Eve, for example, justifying another year of staunch sobriety may seem a little less exciting than sipping (guzzling) champagne and bringing in the new year with a sloppy, drunken kiss. After an exhausting month of frantic holiday shopping, stressful family reunions, and time-crunched travel, the thought of unwinding with a bottle of cheap champagne and angrily screaming at the clock might sound pretty appealing. As with any other holiday, however, we must carefully consider the consequences and honestly ask ourselves if the pros outweigh the cons.
Spoiler alert: They don’t.
I Just Want to Be Normal
One of the most common times during which a recovering alcoholic will fall back into the “I just want to be normal” mentality is during holidays – specifically drinking holidays, which most of them tend to be. Of all the holidays that notoriously revolve around excessive alcohol consumption (think St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo, July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day if you’re single) New Years Eve is perhaps the greatest example of justified alcoholism. Another long, hard year of work and bills and fundamental human suffering, and now? We reward ourselves for a job well done with sequins and stupid hats and a tanked-up midnight toast. Well, we don’t – not us specifically. Not us recovering folk. We turn down party after party in favor of a safe night in with a few select friends. We write down our resolutions for the sake of tradition, perhaps overlooking the fact that now, finally, we are capable of achieving whatever it is we set our minds to.
And here’s the thing about us recovering alcoholics and addicts. We like to sensationalize things (not always on purpose). We like to pretend that everything is life or death; critical and fatalistic. The party we are missing may seem absolutely crucial, and missing it may seem like it will put us back socially about 20 years. We may feel angry and burnt up and resentful, full of self-pity, wondering how we will go on living if we can’t slip into a suit or a cocktail dress and make forgettable smalltalk with strangers. And then we go to bed and we wake up and we are sober and not hungover and not remorseful and all is well, and life goes on just as it has been.
Eventually, we will not feel as if we are sacrificing something, but rather as if we are being gifted something precious and miraculous. Think of just how many heavy drinkers resolve to put down the bottle and spend more time at the gym, or finally write that book, or travel to that place they have always wanted to visit. Think of how many of those hard drinkers last a week or a month before falling victim to their old regime, again putting off long-time dreams in lieu of a familiar lifestyle.
Resolutions – A New Meaning
Resolutions once seemed unattainable – lofty and idealistic goals that we knew on some deeper level we would never be able to conquer in full (or even partially, in many cases). Our intentions were good, sure, of course, but our ability to put down the drink for long enough to consider the fact that we were utterly stagnant was nil. Or maybe we did consider it, and then vow to change it, and then instantaneously accept it as unchangeable fact. In all likelihood, we started off every new year with a pounding headache and a putrid taste in our mouths, curled up on the bathroom floor or trying desperately to find our car keys in a strange couch. Anyone can put on a nice outfit and get drunk and blow a horn at midnight. Anyone can do that. Not many people can do what we can do – not many people can commit to staying sober one day at a time, and steadily achieve every personal goal of self-betterment on that gosh darn list.
Staying Sober on New Years Eve
Staying sober on New Years is not always easy, depending on the perspective we choose to adopt. It will get easier over time, of course, as most things tend to. Our outlook will eventually shift from one of suffering consequences to one of gracious acceptance and appreciation. Until then, all we must do is continue staying sober, one day at a time. Just like any other day, the last of the year is 24 hours long, and once it passes it will have passed and that will be it. As on any other potentially tough holidays, meetings are typically available around-the-clock, and sober supports are always reachable. The kit of spiritual tools will always be accessible, so long as we are willing to utilize them. And that party – the one that seems so, so imperative to our ultimate happiness and social standing – it will also come and go, and few will remember it in a week, a month, a year. Nothing is quite as vital as our sobriety. And so long as we maintain that, we are truly capable of achieving any goal we create for ourselves.
Happy New Year, one and all!