Sober Through the Holidays

Holidays can be a trying time for alcoholics, particularly for those of us who are newly sober. The following messages of experience, strength and hope come from members in our Continental European Fellowship. No matter what holidays you may or may not celebrate this time of year, remember to carry the Message of AA with you all throughout the year—one twenty-four hour period at a time.  


“I was two years sober when I went to the annual big Christmas dinner with my extended family for the first time—my first sober Christmas I had spent in residential treatment. I was so anxious leading up to the holiday dinner, spinning in my head about all those years away, what people would think, how everyone knew (and had known for years) about my various embarrassing problems. I remember sharing in my home group, exasperated and with tears in my eyes, how I was ‘just going to put on a f***ing Christmas sweater and go.’ This made everyone roar with laughter, and they repeated this little line to me for years after that share. But turns out this is an excellent strategy for sober living! It works 365. ‘Just suit up and show up.’ I can just show up, hopefully on time and with a side dish to share, and one day at a time my relationships with people in the world will straighten out. Today I have a relationship with my extended family that is deeper than if I wasn’t an alcoholic, because being first a down-and-out drunk, and now sobriety, has given me the gift of perspective about myself and my family. Merry Xmas, everyone!”



“Being sober during the end of year holidays makes for so much less anxiety than in the bad old days, and my expectations are much more easily met. None of the former pressure to be so jolly, to go to so many parties, to buy the perfect gifts, to be so ‘Christmassy’. No need to be perfect now, it just is what it is. A time to relax in my PJ’s if I want to all day, to feel non-guilty about a carbohydrate overload, a time to catch up with old friends on the phone and really talk to my family and be present for them. I enjoy the lights of the season, the smells and spotting the small signs of goodwill and hope in the city streets. I can take time to go and sit in a church – and here in Germany they often have lovely huge trees in them bedecked in yellow or blue lights – and I remember what I have been given in the journey of recovery I’ve been on so far. Hangovers and regret are consigned to Christmases past.”

-Fiona B.


“The holidays have always been tough for me, even now I feel like maintaining my serenity is a little more challenging amidst all the holiday parties and family situations. I’ve found that staying as close to the program works for me. I plan to be of service at meetings, especially ones that take place on a holiday, and take special care to stay in daily contact with those in the program, like my sponsor. It really helps to find a newcomer who is perhaps sober for the first time for a holiday season and do regular check-ins, if they are interested and open to it. Overall, being of service helps smooth out some of the more challenging parts and each year gets a little easier.”

-Katy L.


“After years of denial trying to get sober but every single week relapsing into spree and remorse, I found myself in a hopeless state of mind and body. I thought I couldn’t get more than a week. I truly felt Step One deep in my heart, and I knew I was a real alcoholic.

My continuous sobriety started on December 16, 2018 when my Sponsor invited me to a dinner party at his house with our sober family, he told me about what he called “Step 0”, he asked me “do the people who I call my sober family, crew and friends in AA have what I want and am I willing to go to any lengths to get it?” And I understood by seeing the joy in that dinner party, the love, the compassion, grace, empathy and most of all a sense of doing together what I couldn’t do alone a profound voice inside of “yes”.

So the miracle for me came over a dinner party at his house and I met my sober sister who was celebrating one year sober that same night, every year since she has passed down her chip. However, as always after a week sober, it was very hard on Christmas Day. I went to holiday dinner with family and was insanely triggered by the endless drinks all around the table and the pressure to drink with them. I called my sponsor and he told me about the Holiday Round Up, and this gave me the hope I needed. First thing the next day on December 26th I went to the round up and lots of sober family were there; there was so much strength and experience. But coming close to midnight, while the round up was gently coming to a close, I was helping clean the coffee pots and cookies trays and said to an old timer, “Nine days is the longest I’ve had, but I really want to go drink tonight.” Without missing a beat she said, “If you stay sober a few more minutes the day will change and you’ll have ten days, but if you drink tonight your whole life will go back to a zero. Would you rather have a life of a 10 or the life of a zero?” It made me laugh and see the joy. Of course I wanted a life that was a 10 out of 10 and that has kept me sober until this day.”



“As a queer person with strong trauma, my sobriety during holidays means not to grab that drink and punish myself for the family I have. Sobriety and the AA program showed me acceptance, self-esteem and surrender to what I can not change. It also showed me that many fellows in our Fellowship are a family. I can understand and relate to another alcoholic. As a parent, I am learning to love myself so I can offer true love and compassion to myself and others. I used to be terrified of people because in the past I was very hurt. Today I know I am protected, and that there are fellow humans who appreciate me. In sobriety, I have learned to let God’s light in.”



“Holidays don’t come easy. Feeling the feelings. It helps me to remember to ask God to take over. Whatever it is.”



“My last relapse was five months into the program, and taught me several lessons regarding staying sober during certain moments. I had to look further into the future, and identify dates / occasions / situations which might endanger my sobriety.

With the help of my sponsor, I prepared for those moments, knowing they might be emotionally stressful. I also had to be more aware of my thoughts and emotions during those occasions, and react in a way that keeps me safe.

Instead of asking too much of myself, and remaining in a moment that is starting to overwhelm me, I can always hit the “Pause” button.

That might mean stepping outside for a few minutes, or calling an AA friend or my Sponsor, or it might mean politely excusing myself and going home. It might also mean limiting my exposure to some situations. So on my first Christmas after restarting the Steps, I told my family I was only going to be with them for three hours on Christmas.

They were surprised and a not enthusiastic about my plans, but understood and supported my decision once I explained why I was doing what I was doing. My sobriety comes first, and has to take precedence over everything else.

During those three hours I was able to be fully present, in a good mood, and contribute in a positive way to the occasion, without even a hint of the obsession to drink on the horizon.”



“My kids spent every other Christmas with their father and his new family in another country. I used to drink a lot while feeling lonely and sorry for myself during these holidays before I got sober.

My first sober Christmas Eve without the kids, was not better: me eating a soggy salmon in front of the TV crying over a Christmas movie about a family reunion, which I had even written myself (I am a screenwriter). To add insult to injury, my advent wreath caught fire in the middle of the film. Not wanting to bother my sponsor who was abroad, I came closest to a relapse I have ever been.

Luckily, I dared to open up at a meeting the next day and was able to see the humor in the situation. An oldtimer reminded me that for a big part of the world this was just a normal working day where people don’t even celebrate Christmas.

After this, during Christmas without the children, I made a big effort to apply the AA principle of service to help me escape the danger of self-pity. I experienced the real Christmas spirit by helping out at the Salvation Army or other organizations serving food to people in need in different countries. Instead of missing something I don’t have on Christmas, I come up with ideas for new things I can do and new experiences that I can have.”



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