Helpful tips for managing triggers during the holidays and staying on a path of sobriety.
The holidays in the restaurant industry are tough.
We do more covers, work longer hours, and experience more stress than any other part of the year. Everyone feels the added pressure, but it can feel especially heavy if you’re new to sobriety.
Alcohol and restaurants have been together since their inception. What other industry out there gives you a free drink at the end of every shift and normalizes a daily indulgence in alcohol?
Booze is readily available at any time, and because of our odd schedules, often when we get off work, the only spots open are bars.
These daily temptations can be avoided when you develop healthy new habits, but when the holidays roll around, you might step into some situations that you might find triggering.
Giving up alcohol shouldn’t mean you give up seeing the friends and family that you love. Far from it—a sober lifestyle usually means seeing these people more often, especially family.
On the other side, your friends and family shouldn’t have to stop drinking because you’ve decided alcohol no longer works for you.
We spoke with Chef Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon and Canard in Portland, Oregon, who recently celebrated his 9th year of sobriety (congrats, Chef!) on ways to make it through the holidays without giving in to drinking.
Rucker advises that before you go anywhere, be upfront with the people you plan on spending time with.
“Don’t show up to a triggering situation without laying your cards on the table. Let people know about your sobriety, and let people know where you’re at with your situation.”
Being proactive helps you stay ahead of any circumstances that could be difficult or tempting. Ask people not to offer you drinks or leave alcohol lying around. If you’re spending time with these people for the holidays, it means they care about you. You will not put them out by saying, “I’m sober. Can you help me?”
Join A Community
Chef Rucker also suggests leaning on the community of people who are helping you stay sober.
“Let the people in your community know what you’re doing as well. Talk to your sponsor or someone in your group and say, ‘hey, I’m going home, or I’m going to see some friends from high school,’ and then call them once or twice a day—do a check-in.”
If you don’t have a community, joining a group of like-minded people is one of the greatest ways to help you stay sober.
“Whatever you do in life, not being on your own is always a healthier option. We’re all gonna fall down, and having a community that’s there to help pick you back up? That makes things better. That makes things easier. Go find that community.”
The Portland, OR, branch, initiated by Chef Rucker, has meetings every Tuesday, and meetings are also held once a week in 23 other cities throughout the country. Even if you can’t find a meeting locally, Ben’s Friends holds a Zoom meeting at 10 am EST daily, which is open to everyone.
When asked how Rucker manages his day-to-day stress during the holidays, he said, “My go-to release is always exercise. If I start my day with exercise and burn off the stress, I feel like I can tackle the day.”
When it comes to alternatives for drinks, Rucker drinks a healthy amount of soda water. “I like having stuff on hand like La Croix and diet coke, and I’m a fan of NA beers.”
He likes to keep the NA beers to special occasions, though, the same way a traditional drinker would for celebrating. “I don’t get off work and crack a NA beer just because I’m off work, you know?”
While Rucker said he isn’t huge into NA mixed drinks—if you want to try making mocktails with non-alcoholic botanical spirits at home, he suggests keeping it simple.
“Shop around a little bit and see what interests you, then just start with soda water. My favorite is the Wilderton Lustre with a little soda water and a lemon or orange twist, and you’re good to go. That’s a good entry-level.”
The 70/20/10 Perspective
Maintaining sobriety through the holidays can be one of your most difficult challenges, but maintaining it for years requires a healthy perspective on life.
Rucker calls his perspective the “Law of Averages.”
“I’m a glass-half-full kinda guy. I like to be in a good mood. That means I want to be stoked on life 70% of the time. 20% of the time, I’m gonna allow myself to be kinda like, blase, like ho-hum, mediocre, and a little bummed out. Then, I give myself 10% of the time to be in rough shape or have a few rough feelings, but that’s ok—because I can make peace going through my day knowing I’m gonna find that 70%. There are days I don’t need to be in that 10%, but I never let it take up more than 10% of my time because it’s just wasted energy.”
A healthy mindset can mean the difference between surviving and thriving. Embrace all your feelings, but let the positive ones dominate your time.
You’re Not Alone
“If you’re trying to do it by yourself and had a relapse,” said Rucker, “maybe it’s time to work a program because you need more than just your own will to get sober. People will welcome you with open arms and help you get back on the right path.”
Going through the holidays doesn’t need to be a challenge. Join a Zoom meeting with Ben’s Friends and listen to what others are saying. You don’t have to talk—sometimes, just listening to others share their struggles is enough for one step in the right direction.