Staying Sober During the 'Alcoholidays'

Producer Andrew Haeg talks to recovering alcoholics about their strategies for staying on the wagon during the holiday season.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

I'm Farai Chideya. This is DAY TO DAY.

Drinking is a huge part of the holidays. There's eggnog at Christmas, champagne at New Year's, martini at company parties. It's no surprise then that this time of year can be extra hard for people who have problems with alcohol. But those who have to muster up holiday spirit without the spirits have also learned valuable lessons about how to approach the holidays.

LISA G.: The holidays were tough, because there's a lot of expectations and a lot of the way you want things to be, and the reality is is that's just not the way they are.

JONATHAN: Usually, I was filled with fear and decided, you know, that in order to make the holiday perfect, I had to get everything arranged just so, and that always was a disaster. My name's Jonathan, and I'm a recovering alcoholic. I've been sober since June 23rd, 1999.

JEFF N.: My name is Jeff N. I'm an alcoholic. I've been sober since September of 1996.

LISA G.: My name is Lisa G. I'm an alcoholic, and my sobriety birth date is August 9th, 2003. I come from a background of active alcoholism, and that's what we did together as a family through the holidays is we drank together.

JEFF N.: I come from a family where there was alcoholism, and I saw, you know, the Christmas lights come falling off the tree and things thrown. And, you know, I never wanted to be like my old man, but in my own way, I ended up being exactly like him.

LISA G.: We had a family that liked to say what they felt when they were drinking, and it wasn't always very nice.

JONATHAN: I married someone who had a large extended family, whose basic principle was holidays are an event where everybody has to be together for, you know, days on end. And for an active alcoholic, that's like hell on Earth.

LISA G.: It would start out good and it would start out, you know, everybody's having a couple of drinks, and it's all good. And then it escalates, and because none of us can stop--and I should speak for myself--it would get sad and disappointing and...

JONATHAN: I ended up getting drunk, you know, Christmas Eve and staying drunk probably through the whole Christmas holiday. And the other leading-up holidays probably weren't much better than that; kickoff time was usually Thanksgiving.

JEFF N.: I would go out and I would spend a whole lot of money buying a whole lot of gifts, and I realize now that my motive in that was a lot of guilt for the way that I participated in their lives throughout the other 364 days of the year.

LISA G.: The good news is is that since I've been sober, I know really what the holidays mean for me and what really the gift of giving is. Being available for 12 step calls, it really feels good doing it and it has nothing to do with gift giving and all of that. It's just about being somewhere where you might be able to help somebody out.

JONATHAN: You know, I plan to have a good time, but if things don't go my way, then I don't have a meltdown. And so I can step away from the event and try and add to instead of take away from. It's behavior that I never would have exhibited in the past.

CHIDEYA: Voices of recovering alcoholics, brought to us by producer Andrew Haig.

DAY TO DAY returns in a moment. I'm Farai Chideya.

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