My sobriety date is 13Mar1999. Things were going pretty well by late fall of that year. I had a new job, was getting some of the debt I had accrued while drinking paid off and I was rebuilding a new life. Then came the Holiday Season - Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve. I suddenly realized I had not been through any of these without drinking for many, many years.

There are lots of social events this time of year. It is a time of year that an active alcoholic can almost feel normal - there are all kinds of parties and excuses for getting drunk - it seems like everyone is living this way. For a recovering alcoholic in his first year of sobriety, this can be a pretty scary time of year. How am I going to avoid all of these parties? How am I going to go to these parties and not get caught up in my old behavior?

The AA Big Book tells us that we can go to these parties if we have a legitimate reason to be there. It goes on to say that you must ask yourself if you have any good social, business or personal reason to be there. You must not go if you are going to get a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere.

That being said, there are no blanket "rules" to follow and each person must determine his or her own safety zone. Eight months into sobriety, I was asking myself these questions. I went to the company Christmas party, but did not stay very long after dinner. In the past, I was always one of the people that stayed until the end of the party and would then go out to the bars with a group of like minded folks.

I am fortunate that there are not any big drinkers in my family. This made family functions the safest place to be this time of year. This is not true of many recovering alcoholics as there is a genetic component to the disease (or at least the disease runs rampant throughout some families). In these cases, one may have to decide to curtail the number and length of time spent at family parties this time of year.

Another thing to be cautious of your first sober Holiday Season is certain foods and deserts. Many dishes and deserts this time of year are spiked with alcohol. I had one good scare at what I thought was a safe party. I was at a neighbors New Year's Eve party where no one was drinking. I got a bowl of fruit cocktail from the pot luck food table. I took one spoonful and there was the old familiar taste of alcohol. It scared me to death. I panicked and nearly left the party at that moment. I just left the rest of the fruit cocktail untouched and the rest of the evening was fine.

One place I did not find myself that first Holiday Season was at the bars and nightclubs. This would not have been a safe place for me to be, because I would have only been there to seek "vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere". Instead of going to bars, I went to AA clubs and events. Alcoholics Anonymous hold lots of parties, dances and events this time of year for just this reason. If you do not know of any AA clubs in your area, you look here: AA clubs.

I learned that first year that it is possible enjoy all sorts of things without alcohol, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and even New Year's Eve. So go out and enjoy the holidays, just think ahead of time about your reasons for attending each event. If you are unsure, ask your sponsor or another member of AA that has a number of years of sobriety.