In for a bad time.
“Don’t drink, ever,” was my Dad’s completely realistic advice to me at 12...
Merry Drinkmas! I mean, Christmas!
It’s the most loaded time of the year, and if you’re anything like me, the holiday spirit calls for a drink — or 10. Spike that eggnog! Pop that champagne! Forget about tomorrow, your liver, your dignity, and ever speaking to your cousin again. Yeah...if you’re anything like me, you probably have firsthand experience of how holiday drinking can really get out of hand. So this year I am determined to imbibe in a truly healthy, Christmas-like way.
I want Tiny Tim to be proud of me.
Alcohol in my family, like many others, is complicated. “Don’t drink, ever,” was my Dad’s completely realistic advice to me at 12. My mother was the first one to get me drunk — on sangria — in high school (accidentally, she claims. I somewhat believe her). Now, family holidays typically mean 2-3 bottles of wine a day between three people, and that’s not counting the vodka. So this year, I am asking myself this serious question: How can I drink less and celebrate like a freaking grown up instead of recreating Santacon in my living room?
I’ve told myself alcohol consumption was never a goal, but I’ve definitely found myself turning to it over the years for various reasons. Happy? Have a drink. Sad? Have a drink. Tired? Have a drink. It got a little predictable — and a little concerning. But the worst was when I got depressed. Last winter was a low point. While home for Christmas, my family and I dribbled to new depths of wine-sodden lang syne. And through the blurry lights on the Christmas tree, like the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, a revelation came to me: I needed that chapter of my life to close for good. I wanted a clean, blank page.
This year (thankfully), my life has changed (dramatically) for the good — and this upcoming holiday season, I have new personal goals. My Christmas wish? Drink less! Here is how I plan to do it.
Scrooge it up. Ebenezer Scrooge is my Christmas spirit animal — not because I plan on shouting “Bah! Humbug!” in people’s faces (although that sounds fun), but because he takes his life lessons to freaking heart and changes his ways. For me, the secret to drinking less has rested largely with taking my life lessons and experiences from last year to heart and caring enough about myself to change. I’ve recognized that drinking is connected to lots of other parts of my life and mental state, and learned to care a lot more about how my choices affect myself and others around me. But I couldn’t have done that unless my miserly heart had been pierced by the Spirit of Christmas and changed. Our hearts really can grow three sizes, just like my other grumpy Christmas-y pal, the Grinch. Which takes me to my next point...
Be of good cheer. Don’t be like the Grinch. Now that you care about yourself a little more, let’s put that into action not only by caring about those around you, but by being your own best friend. Find ways to lift your spirits without, well, spirits. Figure out what works for your self-care. And DO IT, but without worrying too much about other people. Surprisingly, taking care of yourself will make you a much more vibrant and wonderful person for others to be around. Do you need to go to bed early? Do you need to stay in a hotel instead of home? Do you need Grandma to respect your privacy on a certain conversational topic? Ask for, expect, and take what you need to take care of yourself over the holidays. And most importantly, remember you do not need alcohol to have a good time — to cope with the crushing meaninglessness of existence, maybe...but not to have a good time.
Like the New Year’s countdown, have a hard limit. When the ball drops and the countdown reaches zero, we all know that last year is over. And when I reach my drink limit, I have to know it’s enough for the night. I tend to expect other people to believe me when I say “No,” so this Christmas, I am giving myself the gift of taking myself seriously. I will expect my “No” to mean “NO.” And I will then stop. Because A) I don’t want to end up like Bad Santa and B) no means no means no. Take it from me: when it’s 3 a.m. and you and your mom are sitting on the couch discussing religion and thinking about opening that third bottle of wine, DON’T DO IT.
Get “Santa Claused” like Tim Allen and be the designated driver. This one’s easy: I’ll be in California for the holidays, I’ll have a rental car, and I don’t want to be Brit Marling in Another Earth, needing a parallel universe to help me escape from the soul-crushing guilt of drunken vehicular manslaughter. If I’m driving, there will be no drinking. Sometimes having an external excuse helps me when I can’t seem to help myself.
Be real like Rudolph. This reindeer couldn’t hide his shiny nose — why should you hide your healthy goals? Hopefully, over the holidays, you will be around people you love and who care about your well-being. Don’t be afraid to be honest about your goal to drink less. My experience has been that the people around me are usually supportive and want to help me by watching my back when I express a goal about my drinking — and sometimes they want to join me in drinking less! This is a win-win for everyone.
Be the Spirit of Christmas Present. Often, I find myself seeking a drink in order to get out of the moment — whether I’m missing someone who is not there, feeling awkward with the people around me, wishing we weren’t talking about something we’re talking about, or wishing we were talking about something we’re not talking about, I find it’s easy to let myself wander right out of the moment and into trouble. This year, I plan to take the time to be present and pay attention to what’s going on around me — and in me.
We can do this, people! If you’re anything like me, your resolution to celebrate like a freaking grown-up and allow alcohol to be a friend and not an enemy is worth celebrating — it’s the kind of thing that would make baby Jesus smile. So don’t limit the Christmas miracles to 34th street. Time with your family, and yourself, doesn’t have to be a trainwreck.
*Disclaimer: alcoholism and clinical depression require professional treatment and serious consideration. My tips are for people like me who are not diagnosed and simply want to nip bad habits in the bud.