How an Alcoholic Can Survive Cinco de Mayo


By Peggy Spear

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When I was in rehab, my group held a special meeting to cope with Cinco de Mayo. Why in the world would a group of newly sober addicts be commemorating a little-observed holiday in Mexico on May 5 that marks the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza?

Well, in the United States, it has turned into Drinko de Mayo. Sure, it celebrates Mexican-American culture in the U.S., but it is not as significant a day as Sept. 16, Mexican Independence Day. Still, it seems to have become its own force of nature that revolves around margaritas. It can be a tough day for recovering alcoholics, but there is no need to celebrate by staying in bed with the covers pulled over your head.

Here are some ideas for celebrating the day and marking your own victory over alcohol and drugs.

1) Plan a Mexican-inspired meal, with street tacos, grilled pork, guacamole and any other good, healthy food. This will not only keep you busy, but you may learn a few new recipes for your repertoire, however scant it might be at this point in your life.

2) If you are with people who are celebrating with alcoholic drinks, try a delicious mocktail. This is one of my favorite ways to stay sober on an occasion when others are drinking. Try the Citrus Twister instead of a Virgin Margarita: 3 oz. orange juice, 3 oz. pink grapefruit juice; ½ tsp. lime juice, 2 oz. sparkling water or seltzer, and a lime twist. Put in a shaker and shake well several seconds. Strain over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Top with more seltzer, stir and garnish with a lime. (Recipe from “The Mocktail Bar Guide,” which supports Mothers Against Drunk Driving.)

3) Gather with some non-drinking friends and celebrate in an area that is hosting a parade, piñatas and other fun non-drinking activities. I’m lucky because I live near San Francisco, who’s Mission District comes alive for the holiday. Remember, you don’t have to drink.

4) Ignore the day. Go about your regular business. It may be difficult because of all the media attention directed toward this Hallmark holiday, but it really is of little significance to Mexico. Attend an AA meeting if cravings or happy visions of the past creep up. Remember how some of those formerlife Cinco de Mayos ended for you. It wasn’t a victory.

Peggy Spear is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer and editor.