For those struggling with sobriety, the holidays can be a time of regret, isolation and temptation.
With that in mind, Alcoholics Anonymous groups are offering “Alcathons” this weekend: continuous meetings that begin Christmas Eve and run through Christmas night.
“The idea behind it is giving people someplace safe to go during the holidays,” said Bob, who is public information chair for AA in New Hampshire (members of the 12-step group use only their first names publicly to preserve its tradition of anonymity).
For alcoholics, the holidays can be “a terrible time,” Bob said.
“People have hurt their family members so much. We always seem to hurt the people close to us — that’s wives and children,” he said. “As much as you make amends and say you’re sorry, some people just aren’t willing to forgive.
“It does make for a lonely, lonely time.”
“You’re used to getting up in the morning with your kids opening presents and having a jolly old time,” he said. “And now you’re sitting at home thinking about it, in a not very pleasant way.”
In such weak moments, the temptation to drink is strong.
That’s where the Alcathons can help.
Six local AA districts are offering different types of programs on Christmas Eve and Christmas, with speakers, discussion groups and sharing. Alcathons are being held in Concord, Derry, Hudson, Laconia, Manchester and Keene.
What can people expect to find at such events? “There’s food, there’s fellowship,” said Bob. “There’s hope.”
For those who can’t get to an Alcathon in person, there’s a “Christmas Zoomathon” online from 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve through 8 p.m. on Christmas. Log-in information is at: seacoastaa.org/calendar.
Bob has been in recovery for 15 years; he got sober after his second arrest for drunken driving.
He was picking up food for his company Christmas party and got into a fender-bender that led to his arrest. “I had been drinking before work, I’d been drinking during work,” he said.
“Drinking every day just became part of my life,” he said. “It was my second DUI in Massachusetts, so I was looking at mandatory jail time, even though they had been 20 years apart.”
He went to rehab, and that’s where he attended his first AA meeting.
“I didn’t know anything about alcoholism, I didn’t know anything about AA, but I had decided that the choices that I was making were not good ones and I was going to let other people point me in the direction that I should go,” he said.
The holidays can be especially tough for those new to sobriety, Bob said.
Even for him, 15 years sober, he said, “I’m not past the point — and I won’t ever be — where I could relapse.”
Alcathons are also planned for New Year’s Eve in Portsmouth and Salem. The Salem event is both live and on Zoom.
Bob’s advice to those who are perhaps reluctant to join such a gathering: “Have hope, and give it a chance.”
What can others do to support those struggling with substance misuse this Christmas? “Understand that it is a disease, it’s not a choice,” Bob said.
“It’s an incurable disease. But with support, with a program of recovery, you can abate the disease one day at a time.”
AA has been a true gift for him and his family, he said.
“My life, because of this program, because of my recovery, is amazing today,” Bob said. “I have so much gratitude, and being able to be part of any family celebration over the holidays, it fills me with joy.”
For the location and hours of Alcathons on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, visit www.nhaa.net.