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November 1984

Getting Through the Holidays

From the December 1955 Grapevine

"BELIEVE IT or not, the holidays are almost here again! Christmas and New Year's were always sources of trouble for many of us. Tonight, let's talk about how to get through the holidays," said the leader of the closed meeting.

"Good idea. I'm dry six months, and I'd sorta like to see what a sober Christmas is like," said Eddie, who had not seen a sober Christmas since he was a high school freshman.

"Second the motion, and don't forget the office parties," added Tubby, in the last row.

"Okay. But let's start with some general principles, and then we can throw it open for specific ideas," continued the leader of the meeting.

"First of all, there is the matter of attitude. I think we all want to assume that we are going to get through these holidays all right, some of us for the first time, some for the fifth or tenth time. I mean we should be certain about it in our own minds, never entertaining for a moment the thought that maybe we'll slip.

"Second, we should stick rigorously to the twenty-four-hour plan, not worrying about New Year's on Christmas Eve, for example. We should be more careful than ever to start the day with recollection and decision, asking the Higher Power for help to avoid that first drink today. Then at night, give thanks for another day of accomplishment. Take it one day at a time until Christmas, and then make Christmas one day more. Now, who will take it from there? Marcie?"

"I believe not only in taking it one day at a time, but in breaking the day up into little pieces. In other words, asking for help several times a day before any situation that may try us. And by that, I don't mean going to cocktail parties and praying for help to stay dry!" added Marcie.

"The questions about going to cocktail parties is slightly on the controversial side," said the leader.

"We had quite a discussion the other day, and a variety of opinions were developed. My own thought is that in general people who want to stay sober should avoid cocktail parties, particularly people who are new in AA, and emphatically those who have doubts about their ability to get through those affairs. Sometimes they are difficult to avoid, like the office Christmas party. What do you do then? Charlie, you have some sound thoughts on this, I know."

"The matter of drinks being forced on you is a big problem for many new members, a terrific mental obstacle in some cases. Actually, I have found that after the first few minutes of hospitality, most people don't give a hang whether you drink or not. In fact, most of them will not even notice you. We are not the center of attention that we imagine. I'd like to hear from Buck over there. He gets around more than I do and entertains a lot. Buck?"

"Well, for a long time I used to ask for plain ginger ale so I'd have a full glass and people wouldn't pester me. And I learned not to whisper it, but to ask for it in a fairly loud voice. Then after a while, I became convinced that no one really did care. So now I go everywhere, and if I'm not thirsty, I don't even drink ginger ale.

"It really gets to be pretty easy after a while. I just say, 'No thanks, I'm not drinking.' That usually does it. Once in a while some wisenheimer will try to make something of it. So what? So why let him embarrass you? That may not be so easy to say if the wise guy happens to be the boss. Then what? Well, here we must get back to the matter of conditioning and mental attitude.

"It is, of course, possible that someday we may be embarrassed. It hasn't happened to me in any serious way over a period of years, and I believe the reason has been that I've tried to prepare myself mentally for it. Be prepared to suffer embarrassment? And why not? I was embarrassed many times because of my drinking. I will be embarrassed even more if I drink again. So why not suffer, if necessary, to keep something that's so precious to me? Being prepared made me feel strong, feel equal to coping with any situation, no matter how tough," Buck finished.

"Thanks, Buck. There's a lot of solid thought in what you say. Mental attitude is important whether you have to stop in at the neighbor's coffee klatch or attend the office party. On that latter subject, I have a few thoughts myself.

"First of all, go a little late if you can. There will be less time for you to spend, and drinks may have started around, so people may not pay you too much attention. Carry a glass of ginger ale if necessary, but don't pretend you are drinking Scotch and soda. Circulate, but stay away from the office rummies. This is no time to reform them. Leave as early as you can, and go straight home. At any rate, don't stop in at a bar with the boys for a Coke. At least, that's my suggestion. Do we have any others? Our time is running short."

"Yes. What do we do about drinks that are offered to us when we are not sure what is in them, or if we think the hostess is joking a little?" asked Susie.

"Buck, will you take that?"

"You bet. My sobriety is the most important thing in the world for me. It's much too important to be trifled with by any hostess, whether she's crocked or sober. This is a matter of emphasis, of relative values. Which is important, the smile of a hostess or catastrophe in my life? Not much choice there for me.

"If I don't know what is in a drink being offered to me, I ask. And I want to be confident about the answer. I make it clear, if necessary, that I do not take alcoholic beverages. I'll be polite, of course, as polite as the hostess will let me. But if she wants to make a scene, I feel that she is making it--I'm not. After all, in this world there are times when we have to stand up and be counted. Mind you, this seldom happens, but again I think we must be prepared for it."

"Thanks, Buck, but our time is running out.

"Now let's see if we can summarize these suggestions about getting through the holidays. (1) Develop the proper mental attitude. Be prepared to be embarrassed if necessary. (2) Stick closely to the twenty-four-hour plan, breaking the day into smaller pieces, if necessary, and calling more frequently on the Higher Power for help. (3) Don't tempt yourself. Stay out of bars; avoid drinking parties where possible; put in a perfunctory appearance if you have to; don't overstay your required time if more than a perfunctory appearance is required. In other words, think in terms of minimum compliance in these areas of danger. (4) In every area and on every occasion, don't take that first drink. And finally, even though it hasn't been mentioned tonight, don't skip all your AA meetings just because of the holidays. Sure, it's a busy time, but how did you carry out your holiday responsibilities when you were drinking? In my own case, even if I spent half my time at meetings, I'd still have more available, usable time for holiday labor and festivity than I did when I was drinking.

"Shall we close the meeting in the usual way?"

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