THE HARDEST 3 MONTHS OF THE YEAR
Daniel Tinson

**This is an old piece I found from over a year ago that I was yet to publish, now in my burgeoning sobriety I find it as much an inspiration as I do a stark reminder of the daily dedication required to make it another 4 and a half years.**

As of writing this I have been sober 3 years 2 months and 28 days, for approximately 10 years prior to that I was on and off again Sober Not Sober.

Being sober is a daily commitment with some days being more challenging than others. Christmas, New Years and extended periods off work I have always found the hardest to keep sober and they usually result in me tumbling sideways off the wagon, rolling a couple of times and waking up once again in the dust and dirt of alcoholism somewhere mid January.

I figure there are many other people out there that are amidst their first extended period sober or have had a heavy Christmas/New Years and decided that today is the day you will get sober, start drinking again or have just fallen off the wagon yourself.
I'm here to tell you it's ok.
For everyone else, hopefully this a touch of insight into the inner machinations of someone you know.

I thought that after over 3 years sober I would no longer get the urge to drink and that I would have enough tools in my repertoire to keep the demon in the back of my head locked in his room, but I don’t. That bastard is still there beating on the door trying to convince me to open up because one drink or even a sip will be alright.

Whether it’s family, work or social pressure we face more challenges from mid November to mid January than any other time of the year. For me this is also usually when life goes pear shaped, when I have stress from family, issues with my children and additional financial burden all laid upon my back whilst I duck, dodge and weave my way through working in Retail Management at Christmas.

"EVERY DAY COUNTS"

There is always a litany of work parties, family events and social gatherings that combine with the time of year that is, worldwide, culturally celebrated with alcohol.
Here is when the Matrix style bullet dodging gets intense.
I’ve been hit pretty hard by a number of bullets over the years, these are a few I’ve encountered multiple times:

  • Being sober almost 12 months and then finding myself drinking all the free booze I can at a work function.
  • Having just one beer (which in the proceeding days becomes 2, 3, 4 etc.) over Christmas dinner with friends I haven’t seen in years.
  • Standing in the back freezer of a bottle shop staring down a slab of cold beer literally arguing with myself for 15 minutes because half of me wants semblance of relaxation and silence in my brain while the other half knows it’s not my answer.
  • Being gifted so much alcohol I can’t give it away and that midnight snack becomes a midnight bottle of scotch

How you choose to be sober, reduce your drinking or regulate yourself is a personal decision. You need to pick and choose from what you discover, trial and error, educate and reiterate with yourself what is and is not working. I implore that you not throw in your badge because you have had a bad day, week or year.
It is ok if tomorrow is your next first day sober, because it all comes down to an accumulation of single days, and every day counts.

"BUT IF I HAVE TO START AGAIN TOMORROW SO BE IT"

Here are a few things I have been doing through the Christmas and New Years period on my current 3 year journey to get an additional day sober.
This may also help those looking to reduce their alcohol intake:

  • Own it. When declining a drink I don’t justify myself or make excuses. I don’t drink alcohol but I am happy for you to. I don’t need cordial or soft drink to fit in with you, but I’m happy for you to.
  • Don’t own it. I don’t have alcohol in my house over Christmas periods or during intense times of overworking or emotional negativity. If I have a partner, I request they buy it as/when they would like to consume it.
  • Designated driver. Another form of owning your alcoholism. Some people like to remove themselves socially (I did this for the first 12 months, still not sure if it helped) but I like to make a commitment with someone to take them home. This means they are ensuring that you do not drink and you have a set plan as to when the night finishes. Don’t forget the more tired we get the more likely we are to act upon impulse and emotion.
  • Tone that beach body. I personally find it easier to have something to keep my mind dull when struggling with alcohol cravings. Working out like a crazy man will do that. For most of us the extra exertion will make way to keep your lifestyle and eating habits healthier and give you reason to be at your peak the following day.
  • Music, movies, video games and creative flow dull out the noise of an overactive mind. If you haven’t worked out in a while, you may be sore after yesterdays work out to stay off the drink. This is when using healthy artificial stimulants can be favourable. Pick a series of movies to watch (Fast and Furious and Mission Impossible are my go to’s), listen to a bands entire collection and take the time to decide which is your favourite album and why or finish that long lost video game that you are only half way through or haven’t completed a third time yet. Write, paint, draw and express yourself. I promise you will surprise yourself.

Soberness is a journey and what is currently working for me on my journey might not work for you or may not be where you are at on your journey (I couldn’t do movies or games for the first 6 months).
Sober not Sober is my concept of how soberness works. I accept that I have been sober for over 3 years and hope to be sober for over another 3 years. But if I have to start again tomorrow so be it. Don’t forget how many diets, fitness regimes or other goals you are comfortable with forsaking today to start a fresh from tomorrow.
To get to tomorrow is the ultimate goal. Once we reach tomorrow, anything else is possible.

Take care, love yourself and plan today for tomorrows success.

Daniel Tinson is the host of the Sober Not Sober Podcast and co-presenter of the Geek Out of Water Podcast
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