Sober Mom Holiday Tools

Getting and staying sober during the holidays

I promised myself I was only going out for two drinks. I told the eleven-year-old babysitter I'd be home in a couple of hours—no later than nine. I walked out the door on my way to a fancy charity event in a long, sequined gown, high heels, hair and makeup to the nines. At the event, with drink in hand, I started chatting up a guy. I was doing straight shots of tequila and quickly spent $200 buying drinks from the bar—what every classy lady does. Mr. Not-So-Prince-Charming invited me to continue the party at his place. I remember following in my car, gripping the steering wheel, trying to steer in a straight line. The next thing I remember is waking up in Mr. Not-So-Prince-Charming's bed at ten the next morning, thirteen hours after I'd told the babysitter I'd be back.

I drove home overcome with dread, silently promising never to drink again. The scene that met me there was Dickensian: my three children—two, five, and eight years old were lined up on the sofa in their pajamas, eyes wide with horror, staring at me. And no wonder—I was still wearing the sequined gown from the night before, which I'd thrown up on, and my hair and makeup were in shambles.

My five-year-old son asked me, "Mommy, are you okay?" I was not. For the first time in the twenty-one years I'd been drinking, I acknowledged there was something really wrong with me. I said, "No, Mommy is not okay." He grabbed me and hugged me. Then he ran upstairs crying.

I had made that promise more times than I could remember to stop drinking. But now, for the first time, I listened to a voice in my head. Ask for help, it said.

On November 13, 1999, I finally picked up the phone to get help. I knew in that moment that if I didn't get help, five o'clock would roll around and I'd be drunk once again. 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! How the hell am I not going to drink through all of this?

Well, I got through the holidays by getting the proper help I needed from experts. I learned addiction is a chronic, progressive, and fatal disease. The reality was I had no idea what would happen once I started drinking. I feared I would die, kill someone or myself in a car crash, go to jail, and loose my children. I was told if I didn't put my sobriety first I would lose everything—including my kids.

Getting help and treatment during the holidays was the best gift I ever gave my children, my family, and myself. There I found other mothers who felt the same way I did. At last I knew I was not alone. I stopped drinking one day at a time and learned how to face life without a drink or a drug. In my recovery—seventeen years as of this writing—I have found peace, compassion, and forgiveness for myself. I respect myself and love the woman I am today. The greatest gift my children have given to me over the years was to thank me in their own way, for giving them a sober mom!

Tips for staying sober through the holidays:

  • Put your sobriety first. Do what you need to do to stay sane and sober. Call other sober women and go to lots of meetings. Don't put unreasonable expectations on yourself. Your children will enjoy any holiday when their mom is sober.
  • 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.
  • Practice a spirit of giving. Do a good deed without getting found out: perhaps leave a present for an elderly neighbor, adopt a family, or simply make cookies and take them to your favorite AA meeting.
  • Most importantly, be kind and loving towards yourself. Get plenty of sleep, feed yourself well. Take one hour at a time and give yourself the gift of burning your Supermom cape, just for today.

Rosemary O'Connor Rosemary 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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