Updated: Jan 1
This is my third holiday season sober. The first one was terrifying. It was 2020, and I was less than a month sober. I spent most of those early days crying, questioning my ability to get through the day and scared of what was around the corner. Last year, 2021, I had a bit more experience and felt some confidence going into December. I was stronger and more capable and knew what to expect. The holiday itself was enjoyable, and I was able to slow down and be a bit more present with my family. I wasn't as nervous about missing out on what was lost from alcohol either. I knew all that there was to gain from a sober Christmas.
This season, I haven't even thought once about the lack of alcohol in my life or it's missing presence this holiday season. Not being hungover day after day is still a beautiful, welcomed gift, one that I will always be grateful for, especially during this time of year. The shame I used to feel was even worse when I needed to wake up and pretend to be merry and bright for my children, so it is extra nice to be clearheaded during the holidays.
My children are very excited about Christmas. The excitement is palpable in this house. They are also home from school for the next week, without a whole lot going on. We are not traveling, because Chase has a hockey tournament nearby that we need to stay around for, so it is going to be a low-key break. In years past, when I was still drinking, the next week or so would be filled with endless days of heavy drinking with friends and awful hangovers. It would all creep by in a blur, and I would joke to people that I didn't know what day it was. I would start the new year off with a horrendous hangover and look back on the holidays, like always, as something to check off and move on from.
The stress of the holidays is unavoidable, but I have learned that alcohol only makes it worse. One of my biggest reasons for getting sober was to be more present and available emotionally to my children, because numbing out and avoiding them is one of the things I did with drinking.
Christmas Eve was spent with friends day drinking and avoiding parental responsibilities, beginning with mimosas over brunch. One year, we lost track of time drinking with another family at their house and we showed up late to the Christmas Eve church service drunk, with all our kids, causing a loud scene in the back of the church. I was mortified and my kids even knew something was up.
Even though we have no plans with friends this year to hang out all day like we used to, because things have changed now that I don't drink anymore, I am grateful for our new routine. Things are quiet and simpler. There is still holiday stress, but alcohol no longer plays a role in it. And because of that, there is no shame or regret anymore.