Staying Clean and Sober During the Holidays: The Who, What, When, Where and Why

Growing up in remote Northeast Montana with a console television and antenna on the roof, we regularly tuned into two television stations and on occasion perhaps four. Being only 13 miles from the Canadian border the two stations we could always turn into were CTV and CBC in Regina, Saskatchewan. The earliest TV news magazine programs I can remember and just happens to be the longest-running current affairs/newsmagazine program in North America, is CTV’s W-5. The Program would focus on the who, what, when, where and the why of current social and political issues.

Today I am going to borrow the “W-5” as I contemplate what the holiday celebrations look like while in recovery as opposed to what it has looked like in the past while in addiction. How do we stay clean and sober during a time of year that tends provide many reasons to indulge?

Remember WHO You Celebrate:

When I evaluate holidays in the past, I find that much of my life in addiction was all about me. I may be making myself a bit vulnerable in this, but I feel it necessary. Some that knew me during those days may argue different, saying things like “your kids were well taken care of, fed well with a feast, you spent time with them to go shopping for their mom, you were sure the Christmas tree was overtaken with gifts for them. How could THAT be selfishness?” Now there may be some of you that have not and or are not struggling with addiction. Don’t let this hinder you from doing some honest self-evaluation in some of these areas.

As an addict, and living a self-centered life, all of these “good” things that were done outwardly were really just a way to “keep the peace” with my wife and kids or internally attempt to cover over some of the guilt and shame I carried over the negative effects that my drinking had on my family. I would have had no issues telling my wife we were going to have a “Dollar General” Christmas if there would have been no resistance. I would often work late hours on the farm to avoid and friction over my alcohol intake. This was not because I was “being responsible” and exhibiting a “good work ethic.”  

Now, in recovery from a life lived for myself and now living my best life for Jesus and seeing Him adored and celebrated the holidays are totally different. Failure to keep God in His rightful place, is sure to remove me from mine…. but when I keep God in his rightful place He is faithful to keep me in my place. Will there be a total absence from any anxiety? No. Will I want things my way in certain situations? Yes. Will I have to sacrifice my own wants and preferences for the sake of others? Absolutely. But I am confident that when the celebrating winds die down that I will be so very thankful that I kept the right WHO at the center of my celebrations.

Remember WHAT You are Celebrating:

In my addiction I would use any excuse to either “morn” or to “celebrate” by getting drunk. The holiday blues? “WHAT a great reason to throw a pity party and get drunk!” The company Christmas party “WHAT a great reason to celebrate and get drunk.” But now, I am overcome on a regular basis at the grace and forgiveness God has poured out on my life! WHAT a reason to remain sober in an act of worship to my gracious Father.

Having my family back under one roof after months of questioning if that would ever be possible. WHAT an outstanding reason praise Jesus for his mercy! And this makes a great segway into the WHEN.

Remember WHEN to Celebrate:

Just as it was not only the holidays that I could find reason to glorify and gratify myself with alcohol, I do not need a date on the calendar to find a reason to be THANKFUL. I didn’t need a holiday to get drunk and I don’t need a church full of people to sing “Joy to the World” in order to be joyful. Having every reason I take every opportunity, with a joy in my heart thanking God for all He has done and continues to do in and through my life devoted to Him. If we are going to stay sober over the holidays it is because we have made a commitment to stay sober all the days.

Remember WHERE to Celebrate:

Similar to the WHEN, the WHERE made little difference in my addiction. It was not uncommon for me to be drinking while driving on long road trips or just to cross town. The same goes for my praising Jesus and celebrating all he has done for me. Now some may think I am drunk when I hang my head out the window of my vehicle and shout “LET ME TELL YOU BOUT MY JESUS” as a sing along with the radio. But I assure you I am “no longer drunk with wine but filled with the Holy Spirit.” You may want to get used to it because I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.  Are the places you are going this holiday season helping you praise God or are they enabling you to praise yourself?  WHERE you go makes a big difference in your sobriety.

Remember WHY to Celebrate:

I cannot tell you how often I have asked myself this question as the Apostle Paul did in Romans chapter 7 did. WHY?

“I do not understand what I am doing. For what I want to do I don’t do, but what I hate, this is what I do.”

It didn’t matter what the reason, or where I was. The day, month or year did not matter. I got drunk many times still confused as to WHY. But I have come to understand the simplicity of the dilemma. And the equal simplicity of the solution. You see, though it sounds cliche, the simple answer as to why I continually found myself confused about WHY I kept doing things that I honestly did not want to do is SIN.

Sin that is rooted in self-preservation, self-gratification, and self-glorification. And it is not until I replace SELF with CHRIST and allow myself to be led by the Spirit of God and NOT my own sinful self-centered desires, then and only then will I truly see all that God has for me.

As Paul said in the book of Ephesians chapter 3, verse 20,

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

This, my friends, is WHY I celebrate! Because a price that was owed for my sin, a price far more than I could ever pay, was paid for me on the cross by Jesus Christ. And your debt has been settled too, you only need to turn to the one who paid it for you.

Turn to Jesus and find the true WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY concerning celebrating this year.

If you would like to talk to someone about Knowing Jesus or a battle you are facing you can reach out to us on Facebook or on our website.

We here at Next Step are praying you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year—knowing the love of Jesus more each and every day.

- Mike

Mike Andersen is a graduate of Next Step Recovery Ministries. Mike currently serves as a teacher at Next Step and helps with various other activities such as community connections, BLOG posts, and various other activities. You can reach Mike at mandersen@nextstepmin.org

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