As if we need another reminder of the season at hand, these questions focus us on what's at stake right now.
Dear Mr. Moyers: I think I'm about to go back home for a couple of days to be with my parents and grandfather and two sisters for the first time since I got help for my drinking problem.
I say "drinking problem" because that's how I'll explain why I am not getting drunk with the family this Christmas, a holiday "tradition" in our household. I don't dare say I'm an alcoholic. They don't and never will understand it. Half of me doesn't want to go home — I'd rather stay here where I feel safe and can stay sober with people like me. But the other half wants to see my family. It is Christmas, after all. What should I do, go or not? — Quincy T., Lexington, Ky.
Dear Quincy: From the postmark on your letter, I know you're only about an hour's drive from your family home, so here's another option. Make it a short visit. Go for the meal or to give and get presents, but don't stay all day. Leave when you're ready or when you feel uncomfortable if your family starts to get lit and loose with the booze.
It is your first holiday, never an easy time when it is the first time without a drink. But if it isn't this holiday, it is another occasion that eventually will test your new-found sobriety.
So go home knowing you don't have to stay and can depart on your terms. And if they wonder why, you don't owe them an explanation, though I believe a straight-up answer is best. You can always say, "No thanks, I choose not to drink today." That's the best gift you can give yourself, Quincy. And maybe someday they, too, will get appreciate the gift.
Dear Mr. Moyers: My husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary this year.
We also were fortunate to celebrate sobriety anniversaries too — my 20th and he his 19th. But he died of heart disease this fall. What a shock!
Suddenly I've got a fear as intense as the craving to drink this Christmas, my first alone. Such a strange feeling — together we never struggled in recovery once we had it. I never even considered drinking again until now! And while I don't want to and know I shouldn't, I can't seem to escape this obsession. Can you help? — Delores J., Vero Beach, Fla.
Dear Delores: No doubt you're grieving big-time, as you should. The loss of a spouse is never easy, and when the holidays roll around all of those emotions and memories of past Christmases surge within us and we can feel utterly overwhelmed and lost in sadness. The fact that you were partners in sobriety makes it doubly hard.
Addiction even in remission still lurks after all your years — we know it is cunning, baffling and powerful, but it is also secretly patient and waits for moments exactly like yours. Fortunately, you have a solid track record of success. Tap it again by reaching out to your support group close to home. Ask for help by inviting them over to fill your home on Christmas Day if you don't have family nearby. Also, a grief counselor or a therapist can help you work through your loss, even while you celebrate all those years you had together married and sober.
Think through the buzz, too. A drink won't bring him back, and the day after Christmas, what will you have if you've slipped back into the bottle? You've come a long way. Stay true on the path you've traveled this far. You know it works and is worth all of the ups and downs.
William Moyers is the vice president of public affairs and community relations for the Hazelden Foundation and the author of "Broken," his best-selling memoir. His new book, "Now What? An Insider's Guide to Addiction and Recovery," was published in October. Please send your questions to William Moyers at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about William Moyers and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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