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Sober alcoholic reminds people to have plan for dealing with holidays

Vinegar made from leftover wine is used make vinaigrette dressing Camino restaurant OaklCalif. | AP Photo

Vinegar made from leftover wine is used to make a vinaigrette dressing at the Camino restaurant in Oakland, Calif. | AP Photo

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Survival guide for sober or recovering

Put sobriety first; realize that even though others may not understand what this entails, it is your No. 1 priority.

At a party, have an escape plan by bringing your own vehicle or figuring out the nearest public transportation so you can leave early if tempted to drink.

Ask another sober alcoholic to be “on call” for you to check in with during the event.

Let someone you trust at the event know that you may need additional support during this occasion.

Find a nonalcoholic beverage that will give you something to hold.

Come up with a standard response as to why you are not drinking, such as, “I don’t drink anymore,” “I am not drinking tonight,” “I am on medication and cannot have alcohol,” “I am the designated driver tonight,” etc. 

Be choosy about the holiday events you attend. Don’t people-please by saying “yes” to events you don’t want to attend.

Find new holiday activities that do not involve drinking, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, ice skating, having a sober get-together and gift exchange, seeing a movie, etc.

Work extra hours if needed in order to distract yourself.

Attend extra mutual-help group meetings during the season.

Be honest with loved ones if you are having a hard time and let them know how to support you.


Updated: December 22, 2013 6:57PM

The holiday season is here. It’s a season during which alcoholic drinks seem to be everywhere, and indulgence is encouraged — not the best time for sober alcoholics who want to stay that way.

“Steve,” Chicago suburban man and former alcohol and drug abuser who requested that his last name not be used for this article, said it’s a difficult time for him. There are many more temptations around.

“I know people who don’t have a problem all year,” he said, “then from November through the first of the year, their whole drinking patterns change.”

It’s something Steve said many sober alcoholics see coming, and they know they have to take some steps that others may not.

“You have to have a plan ahead of time,” he said. “If you’re going to be someplace where alcohol is going to be served, there’s really nothing wrong with leaving. Know that you can walk away from this if it becomes too edgy for you.”

Steve’s drinking began when he was 13 at a party at a friend’s house. Boone’s Farm wine was the beverage of choice for teens back in the 1960s, he said, and after a few years, he added marijuana to his party menu.

His drinking began escalating when he was in his 20s and became a problem when he was in his 30s. Getting a DUI was the first warning sign he remembers, in hindsight, but even then, he didn’t recognize that he had a problem.

“I grew up in an alcoholic household,” he said, “so my view of drinking was somewhat jaded. I was pretty oblivious to it. ... I really didn’t recognize it as a problem until about 10 years ago.”

Steve kept sober during his work days but said he was probably pretty lucky to have kept his job during those years. His social relationships were volatile. People would come in and out of his life. He divorced and admits he did not treat his children as a father should.

“There is a tendency among alcoholics of not taking accountability for our actions,” he said. “When you’re abusing alcohol and drugs, you’re a tornado in your loved ones’ lives.”

At a particularly low point six years ago, he checked himself into the Chemical Dependency Intensive Outpatient program at Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet. He said after trying to get sober on his own several times and always returning to the bottle, he finally admitted he needed some outside help. The two-month program worked, and Steve has been sober ever since.

He finds it gets a little easier year by year to avoid alcohol. He can attend holiday parties today and not be tempted. His advice for those still entrenched in alcoholism is to reach out for help and to not give up.

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