Maintaining Sobriety During Summer Holidays
Remembering the Real Reason for Memorial Day
⇒ Tips on Staying Sober Further Down in this Article
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday for remembering the servicemen and servicewomen who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. By maintaining even a moment of respectful silence and remembrance – and by maintaining sobriety – we can give our thanks for their sacrifice.
Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery each year with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Traditionally, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.
To All Veterans – Thanks for Your Service!
Baby Boomers Remember a Different Kind of Memorial Day Celebration
Memorial Day is one of the biggest travel weekends of the year, and AAA predicts 2017 will be the busiest yet with 39.9 million Americans expected to take a trip. Mattress stores and car dealerships offer huge sales for the holiday, and consumers pump billions of retail and tourism dollars into the economy.
Baby Boomers: There are varying definitions as to the birth years of the Baby Boomer demographic that range from the early 1940s to the early 1960s. Those of us who grew up surrounded by veterans of World War II have different memories of Memorial Days in the past.
Today, Memorial Day for most means barbeque, Black Friday-style blow out sales – and drinking beer and/or getting drunk. Rather than a day to honor the war dead and veterans, most see Memorial Day as the “unofficial start of summer.”
Memorial Day – Honoring the Sacrifices of our Armed Service Members
When we remember and pay respect to their experience and sacrifices – we honor their service.
Memorial Day Remembrance: When I was growing up, we would be coerced into going shopping downtown with mom. We would always encounter an old and grizzled war veteran in the downtown parking lot. He wore his uniform jacket covered in medals. He appeared alert, sober and respectful – but was an unexpected presence in a downtown parking lot.
This old soldier was asking for donations for lapel pins that contained a small red paper poppy. My mother always stopped politely when she saw the soldier and very deliberately made certain to give him a generous amount in exchange for a poppy pin.
She was always very respectful to him and told him with emotion: “Thank you for your service!”
The old soldier would bow and say ‘thank you!’ – and both parties left with some tears in their eyes.
I asked my mom:”Who was that?! And why were you being so polite to a beggar?”
My mom replied with emotion: “Don’t ever call him a beggar! This man fought in a war, experiencing indescribable hardships and losing his friends as they fell dead around him. He did it for us. You will respect him!”
This was my first encounter with paying respect to veterans and those who fought in wars for our freedom. It stuck with me.
I respect and honor him and his fellow soldiers – may their service and sacrifice not be forgotten.
The poppy is the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. Veterans in VA hospitals across the United States assemble “Buddy Poppies”- little, red artificial flowers that people can wear in memory of members of the military who were killed in action. The sale of those Buddy Poppies helps fund VFW initiatives.
Today, VFW Buddy Poppies are assembled by disabled, needy and aging veterans in VA Hospitals and veteran’s homes across the country; and are used by VFW Posts and their Ladies Auxiliaries to compensate the veterans who assemble the poppies. Donations also provide financial assistance to maintain state and national veterans’ rehabilitation and service programs, and to partially support the VFW National Home for veterans’ orphans and widows.
With help from the VFW, the “Little Red Flower” continues to benefit the needy. In 1989, for example, 17,894,684 poppies were sold for an average donation of 55 cents. To date, the VFW has sold over three quarters of a billion Buddy Poppies.
For more info on Veterans of Foreign Wars VFW, see https://www.vfw.org/news-and-publications/press-room/archives/2017/5/vfw-pauses-to-remember-americas-fallen.
Memorial Day Remembrance: When I was in my 20’s, I worked with a man who had fought in the Normandy Invasion. He was one of the lucky ones who survived. He was a very kind and quiet man and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He walked with a limp, which bothered him a lot in damp weather.
He had served in WWII and would not talk about his service years. But in early June, he could be persuaded to talk about D-Day – the Normandy Invasion. His face would become pale and his eyes would fill with pain. He talked about the troops who were jammed into the troop carriers so tightly that no one could fall down – or breathe well. The sea was so rough – if they had not been tightly packed, the troops would have been thrown around in the carrier.
But due the rough seas, most immediately became seasick and threw up as they stood; the stench was indescribable. When they finally reached shore and staggered out, most were immediately gunned down by the German artillery. He said he did not know how he survived; he ran as soldiers dropped all around him.
At that point, he would not (or could not) say any more. I respect and honor him and his fellow soldiers – may their service and sacrifice not be forgotten.
During World War II (1939-1945), the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June 1944 to August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. Codenamed Operation Overlord, the battle began on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, when some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region.Read more at http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/d-day.
Staying Sober – and Happy – During Summer Holidays
Following, some great recommendations on staying sober and happy during holidays from the revised and updated second edition of The Recovery Book.
The Recovery Book is the bible of addiction recovery. Written for the 23 million Americans struggling with alcohol and drugs, it is “a clear, accurate, and comprehensive resource—for patients, their families, and helping professionals” (Anthony B. Radcliffe, M.D., former president, American Society of Addiction Medicine).
Don’t romance the drink or drug. If everyone starts talking about the “good old days,” leave the room. You don’t want to start thinking about your drinking or using days. That can lead to preoccupation and obsession, and then to cravings. Keep your focus on your life right now, your life in recovery.
Sober Holidays Tip #1: Remind yourself every single morning how good it feels to be sober. Plant that thought in your mind right now, and think about it every morning. Stick a note on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself to think about it every day.
Sober Holidays Tip #2: Keep your expectations realistic, so you don’t set yourself up for an emotional letdown. Getting sober doesn’t mean life is instantly perfect. Other people in your life probably haven’t changed, and many of the conflicts that crop up at family reunions will doubtless crop up again. Accept it, roll with the punches, and rein in the urge to manipulate everything and everyone. It will be enough for you to take care of and control yourself.
Sober Holidays Tip #3: Plan activities other than sitting around and gabbing. In many families, getting together for the holidays means sitting around drinking and talking. Investigate other options now. Movies, museums, holiday concerts, skating, walks, swimming and sports events can all help fill the time and limit stress. If weather keeps you inside, suggest activities that will keep everyone busy and focused; such as board games, watching favorite episodes of TV series or old movies.
Sober Holidays Tip #4: Limit the amount of time you spend with relatives who make you crazy. If everyone is gathering for the holiday, including your brother who drinks like a fish, plan on an overlap of just a day or two. If he arrives and stays a week, you can arrive a couple of days before the holiday, help your hosts prepare, enjoy a quiet holiday, and leave the next day.
Sober Holidays Tip #5: If you’re traveling, go to meetings wherever you are. Find a meeting long before you get there. This will give you the booster support shot you’ll almost certainly need—the chance to say, “Sure, I love my family, but sometimes they drive me up the wall,” or to talk about whatever else it is that almost drives you to drink.
Sober Holidays Tip #6: If the holidays mean visiting your old hometown, take time to see old friends you enjoy; avoid those you used to drink or use drugs with. Make plans now for how you’ll occupy your time while there, so you don’t find yourself with time to kill and fleeting thoughts of visiting the people who are still drinking or using.
Sober Holidays Tip #7: Remember what Recovery Zone you’re in. If you’re following the Recovery Zone System, remember where you are in recovery. If you’re in early recovery, the Red Zone, you are bound to be a bit shaky. Don’t push yourself or leave yourself open to temptation. It’s okay to have a quiet holiday season.
Sober Holidays Tip #8 Do a Recovery Zone Re-Check before the holidays get started. Think about the events coming up in the next few weeks. What situations could possibly set you on the road toward relapse? Seeing your ex-husband at a party? Having a fight with your mom? Having dinner with friends who drink? Make a plan now for how you will deal with these events; maybe you’ll go to some extra meetings before you travel, and plan to call your sponsor or a fellowship friend if anything does happen. Or maybe you’ll investigate online meetings now, before anything happens, so you can go to a meeting at a moment’s notice. Remember, it’s okay to retreat to an earlier Recovery Zone for a few weeks.
Sober Holidays Tip #9: If you’re flying and feeling vulnerable, ask for help. Planes don’t have “no alcohol” sections, so the person right next to you might order something alcoholic. What do you do? Ideally, fly with someone you know, someone who knows you are in recovery and will avoid drinking during the trip. If you’re flying alone and feeling vulnerable, explain your situation to the flight attendant. Ask if he can help you change your seat if anyone next to you orders anything stronger than tomato juice. Swapping seats is almost always possible. If you do get stuck next to a drinker, close your eyes and meditate. Put your headphones on and zone out to music or a meditation recording, or watch the movie. If you have Wi-Fi on the plane, contact a friend in recovery for support. Another idea: If you worry you’ll be tempted to stop at a bar on the way to the airport or inside the terminal, have a friend or your sponsor drop you off at the airport and then stay in touch with you via phone, text or video chat until you get on your plane and the cabin door is shut.
Sober Holidays Tip #10: Plan your own celebrations. If you aren’t going traveling for the holidays, plan to celebrate with local AA or NA friends. If you haven’t been invited, do the inviting yourself. Follow old family traditions or start some of your own.
Sober Holidays Tip #11: Take it easy! Get plenty of rest, watch what you eat, get your usual exercise, and take time for meditation. Maintain your recovery routine as much as possible.
Sober Holidays Tip #12 Don’t romance the drink or drug. If everyone starts talking about the “good old days,” leave the room. You don’t want to start thinking about your drinking or using days. That can lead to preoccupation and obsession, and then to cravings. Keep your focus on your life right now, your life in recovery.
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Photo Copyright: Arlington National Cemetery, designsource09 / 123RF Stock Photo