The Winter holidays are a rough time of the year for many alcoholics and addicts. Alcohol addiction and other kinds of drug abuse take a terrible toll on the very kinds of relationships that Christmas encourages us to remember: family, dear friends, perhaps even our god.

This period is particularly hard on people in early recovery, who may be in halfway houses, still in treatment, or in detox, but they’re not the only ones. There are those of us who may never have been able to rebuild bridges that we burnt when we were using. Others may have lost loved ones that they neglected during their active addiction. Marriages may have broken up, children become estranged.

All of these things may become issues around the holidays, and they give us a wonderful excuse for using. Think about it, though. What better way to honor those who are gone, confound the ones who doubt us, and impress the others with our sincerity than to not use during the holidays?

Using is easy. Alcoholics and addicts can do it like falling off a wagon. And feeling sorry for ourselves is one of the quickest ways to become convinced that “it doesn’t matter,” “no one cares about me,” “screw them, who needs ‘em anyway?”

Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink.

But in addition to the pleasure of showing those other folks — one more time — that we actually have changed, we need to remember that a little pain never killed anyone. Drinking and drugging have; they do it all the time. Instead of becoming a cliché and just another statistic, how about if we get out of ourselves and our self-pity and behave like folks who are really in recovery.

How? We go to meetings — lots of meetings — and we share about where we’re coming from. I will guarantee you that 95% of the people in the room have felt (or are feeling) the same way, and a burden shared is not only halved, it can help other people as well. We call sponsors, sponsees, other drunks and addicts. We volunteer to help at sober holiday gatherings. If we are religious, we go to church if we’re comfortable and pray alone if we’re not. We meditate, read books about recovery, write about what we’re feeling. Most importantly, we do these things for ourselves, not for someone else.

Remember this: relapse is what most of the world expects from us addicts. Proving them wrong is the first step in regaining all those things we’ve lost.

As Dr. Bob said to Bill Wilson, “Let’s not screw this thing up!”

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