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Survive the Holidays in Style!

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By Kristen McGuiness

12/20/11

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Yoon, a 43-year old part-time publicist and mother of two who’s now five years sober, knew from the get-go that she had to stay away from risky environments during the holiday season. “Whether it was family or old friends, I knew that there was going to be this assumption at these gatherings that I still drank,” she says. “There were so many people who didn’t know I was sober, and so I knew if I went, I was going to want a drink and feel like I had to say no at every turn.”

Back then, she used to have her husband play interference for her. “Though he really didn’t understand what alcoholism was, he knew that I couldn’t drink and so he would help me out,” she recalls. “He would tell people I was the designated driver and work to take the attention off of me. After a while, I could take care of it on my own. But at first I needed his help.”

For those who struggle with drinking friends, angry relatives, and the general malaise that can come with Christmas cheer, McCarty reminds us all that ultimately, the holidays are about being grateful and summoning up whatever gratitude is possible is almost always a mood-improver. “December 25th is just another day on the calendar,” she says. “And if you want to celebrate it just by writing thank you notes to God, to your family, or to the people who helped you get sober, you can. When we’re really grateful, even for the small things, we want to give it away. We want to find ways of being of service so we can start staying busy, instead of staying busy thinking.”

Helping out other people is actually what gets Jason out of his holiday funk. “When I’m doing service, I’m not in my head—I’m just thinking about cleaning some glasses,” he says. “Then it’s not about the gifts I can’t afford or what my mom just said, but about helping someone else. And that, to me, is really celebrating holidays.”

Kristen McGuiness is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Fix who wrote previously about old timers in AA and sober travel, among many other topics. She is the author of 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life

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