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Red, Red Whine: 5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays Bipolar & Alcohol-Free

By: Conor Bezane

It’s holiday madness. Everyone around you is getting smashed. You want a drink too. But you can’t have one. Why? Because you are an alcoholic. And you are bipolar. What should you do? I’ve survived five Thanksgivings and four Christmases sober and come out on the other end unscathed. In fact, they were some of the best holidays in memory, mainly because I can remember them because I was sober.

This year, I celebrated Thanksgiving at a friend of a friend’s, where I knew almost no one. To quote seminal thrash-metal act Slayer, it was raining blood. Red wine was everywhere and I could smell it from across the room. It came in bottles. It came in decanters. It was poured into enticing, sparkling glassware. There was a pop every time a new bottle was opened, a constant reminder of alcohol. Bourbon was served pre-dinner and rosé at the end of the meal. An alcoholic’s dream come true.

But I got through it, and didn’t partake. I didn’t even want to, because I’ve conditioned myself over the years. Now, just the smell is enough to turn me off. 

Here are some simple tips to guide you through your Christmas and Hanukkah experience.

1. Mix Yourself a Mocktail

You can’t have alcohol, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a special drink. The host at my Thanksgiving had created large ice cubes with mixed berries in them. Pour warm lemon-lime soda over it and the ice starts to melt, making it an instant mocktail. It was supposed to be for the kids, but the host knew I was in recovery and would like one too. It was delicious.

Another easy mocktail is a virgin Moscow Mule. All you need is ginger beer (not ginger ale), which has a stronger, more fervent taste. To transform the ginger beer into a virgin Moscow Mule, leave out the vodka and add a lot of freshly squeezed lime juice. Fresh is key.

For a break from the sweetness, have a highball of some fancy sparkling water. I like mine over ice with a lime wedge.

2. Beware Stints of Mania

When I’m in a small room with a lot of people talking loudly, it’s a trigger for mania. I hear a never-ending babble of voices — not particular words, just a jumble of noise. The cacophony lingers even if I go into a quiet space. It is beyond annoying and the only cure for me is to listen to classical music.

To be festive, try Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Or perhaps there’s another genre that helps you get back into the proper headspace.

3. Play With the Kids

Playing with children is the perfect distraction from booze and the loudness of where everyone is settled in. Plus, the wee ones usually have their own designated space, far from the alcohol-guzzling adults. Take the kids to the playroom and play video games, cards, or board games. That’ll get you away from the alcohol (although perhaps not the loud noise).

4. Watch football

I’m no sports fan, but watching football can be an easy escape. Something that your mind can focus on and drown out your surroundings.

5. Plan an Exit Strategy

If things get to be too much and you just can’t cope, there are a number of excuses you could come up with — stomachache, dizzy spell, early-morning commitment — but the one that seems to be the least innocuous is to feign a migraine. Twelve percent of people worldwide, including children, suffer from migraines. So it’s not as if it’s uncommon.

 

So instead of avoiding the holidays altogether – which you may be tempted to do — follow the tips above and have a happy holiday. And pat yourself on the back when you leave the party. You’ve made it!

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