5 Things That Are Cooler Than Drinking During The Holidays

sober Christmas

ANYTHING is cooler. Ok, just kidding, that wouldn’t make for a very practical list now would it?

The holidays are a lovely time for being grateful, giving back, and spending time with your family and friends. Of course we all know what else the holidays are good for, and that’s drinking. Even though the holidays might get you nostalgic for the drink, you should know there are tons of other cooler things you could be doing. I’m here to remind you of these multitude of things that are cooler than drinking during the holidays.

1. Eating

Is there anything better than food during the holidays? The answer is no. The holidays are the perfect time to try new restaurants or food you’ve never had before. It’s time to hit that Indian spot down the street and see what everyone’s raving about. Or, you can rekindle your romance with mom’s cooking. If Christmas doesn’t get you excited for meatloaf, turkey, stuffing, and every flavor of pie under the sun you are missing out. December is a great month to become a chef yourself too. Cooking classes can become your new hobby, or you can finally try those 50 Pinterest recipes you pinned once and never looked at again. I’ll be using my juicer that I got for my birthday in June and haven’t used yet (oops.) The possibilities with cooking and eating are endless and are definitely cooler than drinking.

2. Seeing the world

There’s nothing more tragic that being stuck in the same town forever. Being sober will take you places you’ve never been before, literally. I know when I was drunk all the time, I still traveled, but everything was a blur. I barely remember some pretty amazing places, or they are tainted with drunken regrets and I don’t want to remember them. Now, I am 100% present when I travel. I can appreciate every trip, every site I see, and every new piece of information I learn along the way. If you can use your holidays this year to travel, I recommend you do so and leave the drinking behind.

3. Do nothing

When you have some extra time off work over the next few weeks, don’t force yourself to rush around and be social if you aren’t feeling it. One thing I have learned about sobriety is that rest time is imperative. Remember all those nights you didn’t sleep or you didn’t enter REM because you were wasted? Yeah, now you have the amazing ability to sleep normally! Use this holiday to rest, recuperate, catch up on your reading, TV watching, or write in your journal. Think of how refreshed and revitalized you will be to take on the new year.

4. Making new year’s resolutions

Included in the holiday season is the New Year celebration. There are much cooler ways to celebrate New Year’s than drinking. Gasp! I know, it’s hard to believe. I didn’t think it was true until I got sober. That’s why I’m here too tell you, there is nothing better than ringing in a new year sober. Trust me you will not miss blacking out and not knowing what you’re celebrating or who you’re kissing at midnight. Removing the alcohol factor will really allow you to embrace the ending of an entire year and welcome the serenity and excitement that a new one brings. Going along with that, writing your own New Year’s resolutions can be therapeutic and take on real meaning now that you’re sober. It’s the perfect time to set goals for the coming here: pick out new hobbies, commit to running a marathon, pick a vacation and save for it, or buy that new car.

5. Volunteering

‘Tis the season for giving and if you are in recovery it’s always a good time for service. What better way to feel good during the holidays and avoid drinking than volunteering? If you attend meetings, you should give back, chair a meeting at a prison or a rehab center, or talk to a treatment center. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. Get involved with the causes that mean something to you personally. There’s something about giving back that can help you find your place in the world and makes you feel like you are worth giving this life your best shot. Plus, you are helping others, and that’s just plain humbling.

These 5 amazing things only scratch the surface of the plethora of activities that span this Earth that are infinitely cooler than drinking. So don’t spend the holidays feeling sorry for yourself and questioning why is it that you can’t drink. One drink won’t make you normal and one night out won’t make everything better. Instead, focus your energy on new hobbies or skills – see the world, better yourself! The best part about all of these things is that you’re sober, you’re evolving, you’re becoming more you.

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5 Things I Learned When My Sister Got Married

miami beach wedding

My sister and her family. jonathanconnolly.com

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, my only sister and very best friend got married. I was her maid of honor and had to give a public speech in front of about 100 people aka my worst nightmare. There is a reason I prefer writing, not speaking. Haha. This joyous occasion not only marked a new chapter in the lives of my sister and her new husband, but in my life as well.

1. My family is forever changed

And this is a good thing! I wasn’t always open to change, but I’ve realized now that our family has expanded greatly and it will never be the same. I’ve finally gained a brother (something I’ve wanted my entire life!) and a nephew who keeps life exciting. I know my dad is psyched to have other males around because he was surrounded by  just my mom, me, and my sister for so long. This new dynamic we have with my boyfriend Fer, my sister’s husband (also named Fernando!) , my dad, and my nephew Adrian, brings testosterone and male bonding. As an independent woman, I still really like seeing that we have a strong male side to our family now!

2. I have to share my sister

Boooooo. Haha. If you know me, you know I’m not a great sharer. It’s been hard for me to get out of my selfishness and realize my sister isn’t going to be at my beckon call 24/7. There were times when I felt like I was in competition with my sister’s boyfriends in the past, which is just silly. I’m finally realizing my alcoholic brain needs training to learn that it isn’t all about ME. Luckily, I am happy to share my sister with an awesome guy like my brother-in-law; he is making it easy for me! He not only unconditionally loves my sister, he also accepts me for who I am and respects the close friendship I have with my sister.

3. New roles

Whoaaaaa life! I am an aunt now and a sister-in-law. These are roles that I’ve never taken on before. This means a lot of learning, listening, and patience – skills I am still perfecting! haha. Seeing my family members in new roles is different too. My parents are grandma and grandpa and my sister is a step mother. Observing these new roles and how I fit in is fascinating and eye-opening.

4. I’m next

Since my sister and I are only one year apart in age and I have a long-term boyfriend, many people at the wedding were questioning when I am going to get married. Pressure! Of course I can’t wait to marry Fer, but we are in no rush. Plus getting married means spending a lot of money and time on one special day and we are spending money on other things right now, like travel and cars. However, these questions do make me feel old! I can’t believe I’m going to be 30 next year…but that’s for another post…

5. If I wasn’t sober I wouldn’t be enjoying any of this

This is the truth. I believe if I was still in my days of heavy partying, I wouldn’t have enjoyed my sister’s wedding and everything that came with it. I would have probably not been such an integral part of this experience and I would have been fighting tooth and nail not to share my sister with someone else. I would have been drunk, blacked out, or hungover, or all of the above. Being sober has given me a perspective I’ve never had before. It has allowed me to deal with situations with a mature and healthy mindset. I am not only able to accept the happiness and life choices of my sister, but I am able to enjoy them, support her, and really be there for her during one of the happiest times of her life. I am truly and genuinely happy for her. I feel peace and joy in my heart when I think of her future and her new little family.

Most importantly I was able to get up in front of a crowd and express how I felt about my sister and her husband. Even though I was nervous, I didn’t need alcohol. People laughed, they cried. They enjoyed my speech just as much as I enjoyed giving it.

I know from this point forward my family will be different and I’m ok with it. I am willingly and able to accept these changes with open arms. I know I know, who am I? I guess these feelings are just another advantage of being sober.

sister wedding

Fer and I
jonathanconnolly.com

6 Reasons to Be Thankful You’re Sober on Thanksgiving

sober Thanksgiving

This year is my second sober Thanksgiving and my first one living in the United States in quite a few years. Last year I was working on Thanksgiving because obviously it’s not a holiday in Mexico. Although we aren’t doing the normal huge turkey dinner this year because we are busy prepping for my sister’s wedding this weekend, I still get to be with my family and enjoy this special day. Thanksgiving is a day when you are meant to reflect on what you are grateful for and the one thing that tops my list is my sobriety. Some sober people and a lot of normies probably think it’s the pits to be sober on Thanksgiving, but it’s actually pretty amazing. That’s why I am taking the time today to write down reasons to be thankful you’re sober on Thanksgiving.

1. No hangover

Thanksgiving eve is the biggest bar night of the year! It used to be just another reason for me to get shitfaced. Being sober now you can stay in, go home early, be the DD, wake up early and help your parents cook, or run a Turkey Trot 5K like I did this morning! You know why it’s so great? Because the possibilities are endless! Without a hangover, you can take on the world.

2. Renewed Tastebuds

If you’re hungover, or always drinking excessively, it’s probable your tastebuds have become slightly deadened. When I was drinking I didn’t even care for food half the time, my stomach was upset from drinking, or I just didn’t eat. Now I can actually savor the flavors of different kinds of food and we all know this is an important trait on Thanksgiving.

3. Gratefulness

Yes you should be thankful for gratefulness and vice versa. One of the things I’ve realized is how ungrateful I was when I was drinking. I can truly say I am thankful to be grateful. I am thankful sobriety has given me the opportunity to reevaluate my life and become grateful for each day.

4. Avoid Embarrassment

If you’re sober, chances are you won’t be doing any of the embarrassing things you did when you were drunk or on drugs. You’ll actually remember everything and you can calmly enjoy an awesome holiday with your family and friends without blacking out.

5. Shopping

If Black Friday is your thing, I’m sure it’s much easier to do sober. Now that they are opening the stores on the evening of Thanksgiving, it’s even more of a reason to stay sober today. You’ll be able to get to those sales without throwing ‘bows and be the designated driver for any other family members who want to shop, but might have had too much wine at dinner. Warning: there are only 28 shopping days left until Christmas.

6. Realizing your worth

Being grateful on Thanksgiving and especially for your sobriety, brings it all full circle. Remind yourself today why you’re sober and how hard you have worked to get where you are. Today’s holiday is a great reminder of why you’re worth the work it requires to be sober every day of the year.

7. Family

There’s nothing better than being with your loved ones during the holidays. If you were a cranky, bitter drunk like I was, then you probably never really appreciated it before now. In the past I couldn’t be bothered with family functions, dinners bored me, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there and do something fun (aka party.) I have completely converted into a holiday obsessed freak who burns balsam candles in the middle of summer and wants to get her Christmas tree before Thanksgiving. This is what sobriety does to you people. Just kidding! But really, I found myself getting nostalgic and teary eyed watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV this morning because I just feel like I never REALLY appreciated it before. I feel like a little kid experiencing these holidays for the first time, getting giddy over parade balloons and floats, looking around at the table seeing all of my family members laugh and get along. This is bliss.

There’s nothing better than being with your loved ones during the holidays. If you were a cranky, bitter drunk like I was, then you probably never really appreciated it before now. In the past I couldn’t be bothered with family functions, dinners bored me, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there and do something fun (aka party.) I have completely converted into a holiday obsessed freak who burns balsam candles in the middle of summer and wants to get her Christmas tree before Thanksgiving. This is what sobriety does to you people. Just kidding! But really, I found myself getting nostalgic and teary eyed watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV this morning because I just feel like I never REALLY appreciated it before. I feel like a little kid experiencing these holidays for the first time, getting giddy over parade balloons and floats, looking around at the table seeing all of my family members laugh and get along. This is bliss.

You see, there really is nothing like experiencing the holidays sober after being numb for so long. So take some time today to remember why you’re sober, how great it is, as well as everything in your life that you’re thankful for. I hope you’re thankful to be sober on Thanksgiving and every day of the year!

Happy Thanksgiving!

7 Reasons To Come Out Of the Addiction Closet

come out of the addiction closet

I guess it’s not any secret that I am not anonymous when it comes to talking about my addiction and paths I’ve taken to recovery. Sometimes it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and putting yourself out there can invite hurtful comments or questions. Despite this, I’m a big advocate for breaking the stigma of addiction, living your truth, and coming out of the addiction closet. I am loud and proud about my struggles and it has given me freedom. Below is a list of 7 reasons why you may want to break your anonymity and come out of the addiction closet.

1. You will know a new freedom

A relief is lifted off your shoulders once you come to terms with who you really are. You will finally feel like you are not weighed down by the shackles of your secrets. Your friends, family, and most importantly yourself will learn to love you for who you really are.

2. You can be honest with yourself & others

It’s exhausting trying to be someone you’re not. Putting on a face everywhere you go, making mindless small talk with people to pretend you’re one person, when on the inside you’re someone else. Stop the madness! Be true to yourself and live your truth! Don’t be afraid of who you really are.

3. You will gain inner peace

After being truthful to yourself and others, you will find inner peace. Admitting you have alcohol issues is one more secret that can’t keep you sick anymore once you release it.

4. You’ll help break the stigma

We all know the bad stigma the words ‘addict’ and ‘alcoholic’ carry. People can look at you differently, assume you’re a bad person, or that you aren’t worth much. Many people imagine addicts as immoral criminals, but this is just not true. Keeping your addiction a secret may continue the feelings of guilt and shame that accompany it. By sharing your story, you will open people’s eyes to the fact that addiction can effect anyone regardless of age, skin color, or economic status.

5. You will inspire others

You could literally save a life. By sharing with someone else who is suffering, you may inspire change in them. Many blog readers message or email me and ask me how I got sober, or why, and that they are thinking of doing the same. Just by talking to them I can help plant the seeds of change. You never know whose life you can impact by being honest and telling your own story.

6. If not you, then who?

It’s easy to sit around and say, ok great idea, I’m sure someone else will do it. Sometimes you have to come out of your comfort zone and take action to make a change. Just assuming someone else will do it doesn’t make an impact. Why not you? Why not now? If not you, then who?

7. Meet new people, make new friendships

Personally, by sharing my story I have made friends online and around the globe that I would have never known had I not decided to speak out about my struggle with alcohol. Through these friends I have been introduced to new programs, classes, and other things I probably never would have tried if I didn’t meet these people.

Coming out of the addiction closet has benefits not only for you, but for the people around you; some you may not even know yet! Break the stigma, strive for inner peace, and be honest with yourself! We all have our demons. We all have our issues.  Do what you can to stop the shaming and live in the light.

Alcoholism, A Spiritual Sickness

spiritual journey buddhism

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my spirituality. The concept of spirituality is new to me. I didn’t grow up in any type of church or religion and most of the time I consider myself to be borderline atheist. I guess I always associate religion with God and those two things have caused so much fighting and heartache in the world, I never understood people’s deep connection to it. Spirituality wasn’t something I ever thought about in the past or even considered for myself. I assumed it wasn’t for me.

After I became sober, I realized I was still searching for something, still trying to find myself. Something was missing, it still is. When I met my friend Shannon and she got me to go to meditation classes, I started reading and learning a lot about buddhism and its teachings. The classes are actually discussions about practical ways to solve problems in your own life using Buddha’s teachings. There is no talk of God or praying, just listening and learning, and some meditation. Meditation is new to me and so far I really like it. It’s just the process of relaxing the mind and letting your stress and worries melt away. After attending AA the first few times, this also got me thinking about spirituality. As most of you know, AA believes that alcoholism is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. How true that is. But what sticks with me the most is that alcoholism is a sickness of the spirit and I feel like this part is overwhelmingly true for me.

If alcoholism is indeed a sickness of the spirit, it’s no surprise then that spiritual healing is necessary for recovery. As I learn and accept AA with an open mind, I am faced with understanding the concept of a higher power. I’m not to the point where I am willing to turn everything over to him/her/it/them, but I am definitely feeling more spiritual. I have always been fascinated with spirits, energy, tarot cards, and the connectedness of the Earth. I’m seeing that this may serve as a higher power in my life. Last Saturday I went to a psychic here in Cape Coral and got a tarot card reading. She told me many fascinating things, one of which was that deep down I am a very spiritual person, but I have never found the way to get in touch with my spirituality. She told me my spirit guides have been trying hard to get in touch with me. She said because I’m a water sign I should go to a large body of water at least twice a month and sit with a amethyst or quartz in my hand and breathe out the bad energy, and breathe in the good. I was stunned she could tell how spiritually confused I was and that I needed guidance. That session confirmed to me that I am now on the correct path to spirituality.

In my life prior to becoming sober, I assumed spirituality was stupid, that it was synonymous with religion, and that it wasn’t for me. I used drugs and alcohol to hide from emotional and physical pain, and other types of trauma I endured during my life. These substances deadened my spirit. Joy, peace, and true connections with others were foreign to me. If my own spirit is what connects me to my higher power, the universe, spirit guides, energies, etc, I was unable to establish this connection previously. My quest is transitioning from spiritual insanity to spiritual freedom. Although I have been sober for a year and a half, I was still feeling lost, and what I’ve realized is being sober is the easy part. It takes courage and time to address an underlying spiritual issue. Much more effort is required to sort through my feelings, to restore inner peace, experience joy of living, and know serenity, and I believe this happens through a spiritual connection.

Should You Drink Non-Alcoholic Beers?

alcoholics drinking na beer

This is an interesting topic. As alcoholics or alcohol abusers, should we be drinking non-alcoholic beers? I’ve heard mixed messages from different people on this subject and here is what I’ve learned:

Non-alcoholic beer, also known as low beer, near beer, low alcohol beer, NA beer, or small beer, actually does contain alcohol. To be considered “non-alcoholic”, these beers must contain less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. The alcohol is either boiled or filtered from the beer during the brewing process. Most states in the USA permit sales of non-alcoholic beer to minors. To get drunk from them or to have them affect you physically, it would take drinking quite a number of them. Psychologically, some believe non-alcoholic beer can dangerously give a placebo effect, making you feel like you’re drunk, possibly bringing back old feelings and habits.

From what I’ve heard and read online, most 12-step programs advise against consuming non-alcoholic brews. They say it’s a slippery slope. Just the smell of something similar to alcohol could be enough to trigger a craving and lead to a relapse. Some people suggest that pretending you are drinking alcohol is  “romanticizing the drink” and can be dangerous. Romanticizing the drink is when a person in recovery remembers the times when alcohol appeared to work for them, when they had good times being drunk. If an alcoholic is drinking a non-alcoholic beer in an attempt to bring back their glory days – this is known as romanticizing the drink.  These same people say that if you are determined to build a good life away from addiction, pretend beers won’t be needed.

From my point of view, I definitely understand the view that fake beer that still has a teeny weenie bit of alcohol in it, can be dangerous. It may open the flood gates for some people. Technically, I guess it could make you want to go out and get blasted and throw your sobriety away. Personally, it doesn’t do that for me. I have the occasional non-alcoholic beer and I also drink mocktails. There is nothing more fun than getting sparkling water and putting it in a wine glass with a lime, like a real normal drinker. I have done this since early sobriety. I believe the decision to indulge in “fake drinks” is a personal one. For myself I think non-alcoholic beer is a blessing. I can indulge when I am at a social gathering, out to dinner, or after work on a long day. It helps me feel not left out, it gives me the momentary feeling that I am not different, and yes it acts maybe as an alcoholic drink would for normal people – it takes the edge off. The best part is – it’s not an alcoholic beverage and I don’t have to worry about controlling my drinking, getting myself in trouble, being hungover, and all the other bad behaviors that went right along with my drinking.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not binge drinking non-alcoholic beer like I did with regular beer and it does not make me want to go out and get trashed for real. If I wanted to take up the real booze again, I would head straight to the tequila and skip the non-alcoholic beers.

About triggers…well as a person who has an addictive personality, triggers are all around me every day. They are something that will be a part of my life forever. That’s the nature of who I am, sometimes on a pretty day out of the clear blue sky for no particular reason at all, I will think to myself, you know what would be good right now? A cocktail. That is a craving people, and only alcoholics get those weird feelings & cravings! I also can’t stand a glass that still has liquid in it – alcohol, coffee, tea, water – finish that thing! It’s only now that I am learning about myself and about alcoholism that I can identify these traits.

In conclusion I say, if you are comfortable in your recovery, you have probably restricted yourself from a plethora of bad substances, so I see nothing wrong with having a non-alcoholic beer here and there to treat yourself! Besides if alcoholics aren’t going to drink non-alcoholic beers, who will?

In the words of Tom Haverford ….

parks and rec treat yo self

This Halloween Take Off Your Mask

remove your mask addiction

 

Yesterday I read a beautiful and moving Huffington Post article by a woman named Mary Moss about her struggle with online dating as a woman with an obvious physical disability and as a single mother to a transgender teen. You can read her article here. It touched on many different aspects of this woman’s life, most notably removing your ‘personal mask’ while dating – putting your baggage on the table for the other person to see.

Mary said, “We all wear masks every day. We smile at the boss we would prefer to frown at. We embellish our experience in job interviews. We say we are doing great to passersby who ask how we are even though we may be feeling very sad. We take on that one favor for a friend and act as if it’s no bother even though we are bogged down at work.”

I couldn’t agree more with her and I feel like this applies perfectly to addiction. Addiction is a mask millions of people wear. A mask that comes with shame, embarrassment, regret, and guilt. I was there once, but I got sick and tired of wearing the mask. I got sick and tired of thinking something was wrong with me, that I was a bad person, when in reality I was sick. Coming out of the addiction closet was one of the best decisions I ever made, and trust me it’s not easy. I thought maybe I could get sober and keep it to myself. But I couldn’t keep lying to myself and people around me. I am different and I decided I would celebrate my differences and share my story.

Mary mentioned in her article that we all just want to love and be loved. We are all striving to find that one honest, true love, and friends that know all of our faults and love us anyway. So why do we put on these masks? There is something scary about revealing our true selves. But when we do, a weight is lifted off our shoulders. Don’t we want people to truly love us for who we are? We don’t want them to love us because of the masks we wear.

I receive emails and messages every day from people telling me I have inspired them to quit drinking, or to cut back, or to just know that there IS such a thing as a fun, sober life. I never expected by taking off my mask, I would encourage so many other people to take off theirs. Revealing my true self has not only been therapeutic for me, it has helped me build and take part in more honest, loving relationships. I know when people love me it’s because they know who I really am, flaws and all. I am now able to live an honest, joyous, and free life.

So I propose this to you, my friends, family, and readers. This Halloween take off your masks. Shed those walls that you hold up so tight to protect your true self from being seen. Share your feelings, share your story. Being an alcoholic, an addict, having alcohol abuse issues, whatever you want to call it – is not your whole life, but it’s a part of it and it helps shape who you are. There is no reason to hide it.

Break the stigma. Come out of the addiction closet. Live freely and inspire others. You are beautiful just the way you are.

Happy Halloween!