Navigating through the minefield that I like to call the holiday season, we reflect on our gratitude for the things we have received and mourn the things we have lost over the past year. For some of us, present company included, alcohol and drugs are not on our list of navigation tools to help us make it to the other side. Clean and sober, clean and not so sober, wanting to become sober, or a desire for less than usual, here are some helpful tips and tricks to get you to the other side with all limbs, heart and soul intact.
- You get to remember everything. Some of us may find this as more of a curse than a blessing, but chances are if you stay sober, you won't have as many things to regret. You most likely won't wind up passed out in a bush or making several trips to the bathroom to "powder your nose," and you are way less likely to include the words Impeachment or Pelosi in any of your conversations. If your family is anything like mine, with a 50/50 Dem/GOP split, this will lend itself to fewer tears and bloodshed.
- No hangovers. When you get to be my age, you don't take your body's resilience for granted. After eight years of sobriety, I consider having no hangovers as more common than not. It is a sublime feeling to wake up (not "come to") on Christmas or New Year's Day. A run or a yoga class, as opposed to an hour of waiting for pain relievers to work and nausea to dissipate. Besides, if sober...you become a spectator to others dealing with their hangovers, or better yet, watch them start getting drunk with their newfound, self-instituted, family ritual of Christmas mimosas!
- You look fantastic. You physically look better. Bottom line...sober people look younger, healthier, and more vibrant. Ask any sober person what their favorite part of being sober is, and they will almost always lead off with this reason.
- Antioxidants can do what they are meant to do. They keep your skin, heart, brain and (every other organ) healthier and functioning 10-20 percent more efficiently. Alcohol is toxic on a cellular level, and your liver has way better things to do than deal with your fondness for Jägermeister.
- Manage your moods. Depression and anxiety are less likely to be an issue. Many of us, present company included, use or have used alcohol and drugs to treat their underlying mood disorders. Depressed? Drink. Anxious? Xanax. Depressed? Xanax. Anxious? Drink...the combinations are myriad, and the results are always the same. The drug or drink that promises you everything in the beginning, eventually lets you down hard in the end. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder...see your doctor or therapist for that prescription or session that you didn't think you had time for. It will be the best thing you can do to preserve your (and everyone else around you) sanity.
- You actually matter. The holiday season is typically known as a time of giving and caring. Addicts and alcoholics tend to overdo it because of selfish reasons. Every good newly sober addict or alcoholic I know feels like the holidays are an excellent time to start campaigning for “Father, Daughter, Spouse, or Friend of the Year.” Addicts and alcoholics have typically been absent, destructive, or selfish for many holidays past. NOW they feel like they need to make immediate amends and apologies for it all by being close to perfect. That is impossible and frankly can be quite annoying to watch or be around. If you are newly sober or trying to stay sober, remember that slow and steady wins the race. If you are genuinely committed to your sobriety as a lifelong endeavor, you know that you will have some time to get back to the life you want to live.
- You are more likely to love yourself by practicing self-care. Addicts mostly spend their whole lives feeling and behaving as if the world revolves around them. Those who are lucky enough to achieve sobriety tend to feel bad about taking care of themselves after they get sober. Self-care is often equated to selfishness in the minds of addicts and alcoholics. Yet, it leads to really liking yourself because you do participate in active, caring thoughts and acts that lead to better wellness.
- You can let go of the resentments. Resentments split families apart. Most resentments are quite insignificant over time and usually last no longer than a fleeting desire or craving. Major resentments tend to snowball over time. I am asked by my spiritual guides, whether I want to be happy or right. I will take happy all day every day. That's not to say some resentments don't take time to resolve.
A helpful tip: If you pray, pray for the most hated, vilest person in your life. Pray for that person every day for a week. (Praying for said person to be run over by a truck doesn't count). I can almost guarantee you (not proven by double-blind studies, however) that you will come to see this person in a different light.
- You get to feel real feelings and detect small nuances. The film director Albert Maysles said, "Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance." When you are sober, you know the joy you are feeling is REAL JOY! There is an unspoken empowerment about this that is hard to explain. You also get to feel real sadness. The type of despair that can lead to a deep connection with yourself or others. It's scary as hell when you first do it in sobriety, but it is worth it. The nuances you experience in life can catapult you into the sublime. With enough of those sublime experiences under your belt, you can almost be guaranteed a smile on your deathbed (again, this has not been proven in any studies.
- Alone no more! You get to join a community of sober people, and you don't have to be alone any longer. Many people have walked the steps that you are contemplating walking. No matter what walk of life you hail from, no matter how broken you are, know that there is an island of lost toys waiting for you. Almost every person that I have met that has gotten sober has something that can be useful to others that are trying to achieve it.
There are proven medications that can help you achieve your goal no matter what that goal is. Naltrexone is proven to reduce the number of drinks you consume by reducing cravings for alcohol and some drugs. It works by blocking the high you feel when you drink (this part is proven in double-blind studies). So, if you want to stop drinking or even if you want to try to cut down, see your Primary Care Provider. The medications can be given in pill, injection, and implant formulation. They can last upwards of three months, for those of you who need that little bit extra.
I hope 2019 gave you everything you needed, and I wish you peace, serenity, joy, and self-forgiveness for the New Year. May you connect to the Infinite Source we all are connected to.
Dr. Joe DeSanto is a Board Certified physician specializing in the field of Addiction Medicine and a Partner of BioCorRx. He is the Medical Director of DeSanto Clinics for Recovery. He writes for several publications including Psychology Today,, The Fix.com, and was the co-host of the weekly FM radio show, “The Recovery Show with Dr. Joe and Angelina” on KOCI 101.5 FM in Orange County California. Podcasts of every show can be downloaded on ITunes and Podbean. He has appeared on national and local news shows to share his expertise in the field. He is also a grateful recovered alcoholic/addict who has dedicated his life to the service of others who still suffer. He lives and works in the Newport Beach/Costa Mesa area of Southern California with his wife, Angelina and two French Bulldogs, Bella and Cheech.