Self-Care Tools to Survive the Not-So-Merry Holidays

Keep It Simple

Bells are ringing, chestnuts are roasting, and Santa's on his way, and you smile to all passersby, saying "Happy Holidays" when really you want to vomit up fruitcake.

The holidays can be so stressful. The shopping, traffic, lines at the stores, events at work and school can turn the Hallmark holiday into Hallmark hell. The feeling of loneliness can trigger the dis-ease if you sit home by yourself romanticizing the holiday; thinking everyone is having the picture-perfect holiday without you.

And to top it off, there is alcohol everywhere you look.

I got sober November 13, 1999. I was separated from my then-husband. Our children were two-, five-, and eight-years-old. Within the next six weeks, I had to face Thanksgiving, my daughter's birthday, my son's birthday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the new millennium! I prayed that the holidays would just be over with.

How the hell am I not going to drink through all of this? I wondered. In the end, I did stay sober through this first holiday season—by taking it one day at a time, just like every other day I was sober. Truthfully, most days I took it one hour at a time.

For many, one of the most difficult places during the holidays can be at home. I once saw a bumper sticker that read, "Good news: The holidays are about family. Bad news: It's your own family."

A bottle of wine used to work to relax me and help me escape from the stress, but in sobriety I had to find substitutes for the wine.

Here are some tips I've found most helpful for surviving holiday gatherings without drinking, using, or going loco.


  1. Put your sobriety first. Do what you need to do to stay sane and sober. Call other sober people and go to lots of recovery meetings.
  2. Don't put unreasonable expectations on yourself. Remember: Keep It Simple!
  3. Practice an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful for the small things: that you woke up sober; that you have another day to experience the grace of being a new you. Today you are part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
  4. Practice a spirit of giving. Do a good deed without getting found out: volunteer at a homeless shelter or an elderly care center; adopt a family and bring them food and gifts.
Remember, it's just another day.


Rosemary O'ConnorRosemary O'Connor is author of A Sober Mom’s Guide To Recovery: Taking Care of Yourself To Take Care Of Your Kids. With a good sense of humor and practical wisdom Rosemary brings her wealth of professional expertise and 16 years of intimate personal understanding to the recovery world. She founded ROC Recovery Services for Women, which provides recovery coaching, life coaching, consulting, and treatment placement. Rosemary has a degree in psychology and is a professional speaker, a certified professional coach, and a certified addiction recovery coach. She is also the outreach manager in the San Francisco Bay area for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
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