Dealing with the holidays is anything but easy; however, when you are (re)pursuing recovery, it’s a whole beast of its own.
The seemingly benign but actually totally loaded question for someone who is early in their recovery journey:
"How are you?"
Or even worse, the coming-out-of-treatment age-old, "How has everything been?" inquiry, accompanied by the awkward pitying look and uncomfortable lack of eye contact.
This is what we might refer to as the newly sober version of being forced to listen to the sing-along song ‘Baby Shark’ on repeat for three or four days straight. Baby shark doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo. Baby shark doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo. Baby shark.
If this sounds like your regular nightmare, keep reading... Now I'm not promising that your holiday season is going to become all zip-a-dee-doo-dah, but hopefully the following will help you survive the interrogatory questioning of family and friends, all while allowing you to make it to next year's festivities ‘still on the wagon.’
Top tips for a sober greenie about navigating the often daunting holiday gatherings and celebrations with difficult people:
Keep it brief
I promise you most people are so absorbed in their own lives and thoughts that the questions may be just a formality more than an interrogation. Go with something vague and/or general as a reply, "Doing okay, working on getting healthier" and then counter the question back to them. Almost everyone is happy to talk about themselves. You are not required to go into specifics about how you're doing in your recovery (that is only reserved for certain people).
Be upfront and direct if necessary
If your loved ones aren't taking the hint, and you truly feel uncomfortable with any line of questioning, there is a polite way of saying, 'get the heck out of here with that'. Maybe something like, "I'm just not comfortable with discussing the specifics right now" will suffice. And if somehow you've gotten yourself cornered by Aunt Mary, Ms. Gossip Girl herself, don’t panic. You could always go with a lighthearted bit of humor, “If I tell you, then I’d have to kill you”. Although, to really get the point across, direct honesty is often key. “Aunt Mary, I do appreciate your concern, but that information is reserved for ______ (fill in the blank).” Name your sponsor, your mom, your friend - whoever your direct support person is.
Try not to take it personally if everyone doesn't agree with your choice to be sober
Unfortunately, there are going to be some who do not know how to handle or appropriately express their feelings about your newfound sobriety. Your uncle may sarcastically ask, “How’s that whole sobriety thing coming along?” with the tone of mockery all too obvious. You may get the friend who goes with the classic, ‘Oh jeez, you’re going to be such a buzzkill now.’ Or even others who choose to see your choice as a personal attack on their own habits. You could just be the constant reminder that they haven't started or aren't doing their own work. Remember… It's not for them, it's for you.
There is nothing wrong with leaving early
If you are worried about making it through an entire night with either the barrage of questioning or the 'late night activities’ that may ensue, it is okay, suggested even, that you dip out prior to that. **An extra bonus tip that supplements the above, make sure to have your own way of leaving available, whether that is bringing your own transportation or arranging a ride before. I'd hate for you to be stuck with nothing at your disposal. No one says you HAVE to use it, but better to have it in place than not.
Make a plan with your therapist or a trusted friend beforehand
Going in blindly on the holidays without any kind of blueprint is like crossing the highway with your eyes shut. Foolish. Discuss beforehand with your counselor about any anticipated situations or challenging people you expect to encounter. And it may be a good idea to brainstorm some pre-conditioned responses to put in your back pocket as well. No, you cannot plan for everything; however, even a vague plan is better than no plan at all.
Consider that the questions aren't coming from a bad place
Although some people are nosy just for the sake of being nosy, that does not mean that everyone is out to get you. Questioning may be a sign of your loved one's desire to understand and learn. Try and stay open-minded and consider whether this is someone who you can be a little more forthcoming with. Doing so could lead to greater trust and repair in some of your relationships.
If all else fails, stuff your face with a handful of the closest holiday treat, and point to your full mouth. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Just kidding on the last one… Or am I?
If you feel like you need support in managing the upcoming holiday season in any way, we are here you for you. Click on the link to schedule an appointment with The Mynd Clinic.