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Holiday cheer and staying sober.
December 2, 2016

Pressured to Provide or Glad to Give?

Holiday cheer and staying sober.Did you survive Black Friday?

Officially, the “black” in the name refers to “being in the black” economically, because it’s among the biggest business days for retailers and among the best days for consumers to find great deals. However, many consider it a “black” day in the negative sense: a day when you run extra risk of being trampled or rear-ended, a day when store clerks and security guards go home with migraine headaches, a day when employers have always had difficulty convincing anyone to work. There is, in fact, evidence that the negative use of “Black Friday” precedes the positive by some 30 years.

And if you’re a newly sober alcoholic, beware: Black Friday ads and Black Friday deals also tout special buys on liquor and wine.

The Pressure Is On

Assuming you resisted the temptation to restock your liquor cabinet on Thanksgiving weekend, you may still long for comfort in a bottle as you look at the month ahead. December is a challenge for anyone with stress-management issues. Here we are:

  • surrounded by “stuff” everyone tells us we should buy for our loved ones or urge them to buy for us;
  • looking at neighbors’ elaborate decorations and feeling pressured to put up something just as fancy;
  • expected to keep up our regular work schedules while simultaneously making time to attend a dozen holiday events (many of which serve alcohol) and to host a party ourselves, often with kids out of school and underfoot;
  • and constantly reminded that this is the season of “peace on earth, good will toward men” and we’re supposed to make time to relax and rejoice (without getting into “politically correct” arguments).

Happiness doesn’t come from to-do lists or “perfect” holidays, any more than it comes from a bottle.

Giving of Yourself

Happiness comes from sharing and giving. Most of us know that instinctively. The trouble is, our view of generosity is as distorted as our view of what makes a merry Christmas. When “giving of yourself” means being a perfect people-pleaser, it’s no wonder we burn out and zone out. The world never runs out of requests and expectations, and the more we try to fulfill every one that comes our way, the more new ones we attract. And the more drained our personal energy banks become.

But in fact, this is the perfect time of year to explore new ways for giving of yourself in the healthiest sense. A vital part of the sobriety journey is learning to give for the joy of it, without obsessing over what we’ve “earned back” through hard work.

Here’s how to give in the best way this holiday season:

  • Give something creative that you genuinely enjoy making. A handwritten poem that comes from your heart will be more appreciated than a hand-knitted sweater made solely to impress.
  • Give a little bit of your time. Volunteer for something, the more hands-on the better. Instead of dropping five dollars in the bell-ringer’s pot or giving your extra coat to the clothing drive, be among those who distribute the coats or serve Christmas dinner at a shelter. You’ll find it hard to resent your own situation when interacting with people who have almost nothing, yet who manage to stay cheerful and clear-headed.
  • Banish the phrase “I have to” from your vocabulary. Give only where you can give from an open heart. You’ll be no real good to anyone overstretching yourself and developing a “coerced” attitude tainted with self-pity.
  • To keep in top giving condition, give a little back to yourself—but not by overindulging in rich food or fancy outings. Set aside at least one full evening a week to stay home and meditate, listen to holiday music, and just open your soul to the spirit of holiday peace.

Giving like this will immensely improve everyone’s chances of enjoying a genuinely happy holiday.

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