Navigating the tsunami PLUS “How to Party Part 3”
Updated: Jan 14
“I'm drowning here, and you're describing the water.”
Melvin Udall, from the movie “As good as it gets.”
Navigating the holidays and traversing life the other eleven months can be complicated and challenging even for the seasoned skipper. . Whether you are new to sobriety or have some time under your belt, memories, drinking events, program work, and expectations can unexpectedly shift underneath us, creating a tsunami of emotions. These can create real obstacles on our waterway to rescue.
This post was inspired by a recent tsunami-themed podcast, where Mike and Glenn discussed holiday trials and shared tools and tips to help pass through the rough waters.
What follows are four anchors (are you catching the nautical references? – oh wait, there are plenty to follow) that have helped us navigate the complexities of the season:
This could be the first sign of trouble, a deep shift in our psyche that stirs up the past and, if allowed to rankle, cracks our foundation, causing emotions to flow uncontrollably. What we did in the past, what we did not do at times, stir up feelings of regret, remorse, guilt, shame, and self-hate. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous and time help manage these feelings and lesson it's destructive potential only if one processes the past and holds on to the great appreciation of where they sit today,
The best way to damn the dyke is to understand where we are today. Acknowledging that we are not the same as we were goes a long way towards exiting the storm and finding rest in the safety of dry land
Working a 12-step recovery program is like having oars for our dinghy. Maneuvered properly, they guide us through the forgiveness of self, which is essential for survival. Grab those oars today and feel the peace of your new direction.
Navigating parties (aka “How to Party – Part 3”)
We have spent much time in sharing tools to help get through the party season. You can check out “how to party part 1” here and “how to party Part 2” here. What follows are a couple of additional tips uncovered during our “Christmastime again” podcast.
Remember, you don't have to go
What fool runs into the face of a tsunami as death almost certainly awaits them? Similarly, why risk going to an event that could kill your sobriety? For those early in sobriety, we strongly encourage you to seek shelter from a potential storm, wherever that might be. We have found that the world does not revolve around us, and will go on fine without us. The questions to ask are: Is it essential that I go to this party? And, is the party more important than my sobriety?
Don't play games
We are not talking about battleships here. We are talking about making it look like you are drinking when you are not.; an NA beer, cranberry juice on ice, tonic with a twist etc. Look, you don't drink alcohol (in some circles, that is becoming cool to do), so don't pretend you do. Faking it is a dangerous game of Russian Roulette. Are you prepared for a loaded chamber?
Cling to your life raft
The best advice we could give would be to go to an event with an accountability partner. Someone who knows you, your history, and your desire for sobriety. Set up a code word, an SOS, that alerts you that it is time to leave. Now. If nobody can accompany you, then bring your phone with you. Let people in sobriety and all that you are going into stormy weather. Use this as an emergency band and the support conduit as the waters rise around you. The best you can, communicate your coordinates as you drift through the event so that they know where to be to rescue you. For example, let them know if things are going well or if you are being challenged. They may not physically come and pull you out of the water, but they could toss you a life ring through a quick call or a text.
Swim to higher ground
Glenn calls this a “hit and run.” The suggestion is to go to an event early, be a condensed life of the party, and then hit the road within a pre-determined time frame. So, give yourself 30 minutes to swoop in and say your hellos, tell a joke or two and then say, “oh, gotta jet.” And find your way back to safe soil and count it as a rescue.
Keep the oar in your hand
We have mentioned this before but do your best to grab your drink of choice, water, pop, or coffee, as quickly as possible. Keep it full, and keep it in your hand, as this will relieve the scenario of somebody offering you a drink. Simple yet powerful suggestion. If you are not steering the ship, somebody else will drive it for you, is the theory behind the suggestion.
If pressed, be assertive.
This may take some practice in front of a mirror, but it is well worth the exercise. Consider it a flood drill. Some people are inclined to press alcohol upon everybody within their sight. Be prepared and be assertive. Whether it's a life or death proposition for them, we, as alcoholics, consider it life or death. Remember, we are not living their program - we are living ours. A simple “no thanks,” “not today,” or “not feeling it” should suffice. But don't be afraid to have “back off” in your back pocket.
Care more about survival and what people think of you.
We have seen time and time again, especially in our journeys, where we thought more of what other people thought about us than the importance of sobriety. That is just wrong in so many ways. It is a sobriety that offers us this new life. It is this sober life that we value so much. Though many Alcoholics are also people-pleasers, emotional sobriety eventually brings us or should bring us, to a place where our sobriety trumps likability. Is this event, scenario, or emotion important enough to take the risk of falling out of my lifeboat?
Navigating the steps in proper order
We will keep this one short. The 12 steps of recovery are listed numerically and sequentially. They are to be executed in order. Holiday gatherings tend to blur that reality, especially for the newly sober. This is a weather warning of bad things if you decide to do step 9 before you've done steps 1 through 8. This is no time to jump to the step of making amends without having completed the other housekeeping steps.
We could give you 100-plus examples of how this went badly for folks. Heed our warning and wait until you and your sponsor have agreed on a time and a place for amends.
Every good sailor does a weather check before heading out. This is the most important part of their preparations. Not looking past the calm of the sea could spell disaster. Everybody wants a Norman Rockwell holiday while what often happens is more like Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase. The victory is yours if you expect stormy seas and end up with calm waters. However, if you go in with the expectation of quiet waters and a storm suddenly emerges, you will be caught unprepared and possibly devastated.
In life, the waves are real.
Look, tsunamis don't last forever. Hang in there! Our only job is to stay in the boat, hands firmly on the rings of the raft. The best advice to leave with is to constantly peddle toward safety and, most importantly, wait for the storm out - as this too shall pass.
Make it a safe and sober holiday!
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from sober.coffee podcast #91 Titled: Christmas time "again" The podcast dropped on12/21/2022 click here to hear the podcast
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication, nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be thought of as a substitute for advice of healthcare professionals. The authors advice and viewpoints are their own.