It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
I absolutely love this time of year. However, there is one thing about the festive season that I don’t like. I can’t stand the endless, pro-booze marketing messages that seem to be everywhere right now.
The idea that you need to drink alcohol in order to be festive, ‘get into the Christmas spirit’ or celebrate properly is absolute nonsense.
It makes me so mad when I see people being tricked into this idea. Pouring a toxic, liquid drug down your neck is not the key to having fun or finding joy.
I think it’s worth remembering that not so long ago, cigarettes were often portrayed like this:
Nowadays, these ads seem silly and rather outrageous, don’t they? Glamorising and romanticising a dangerous, cancer-causing drug like tobacco just feels weird.
So… why are we still glamorising and romanticising alcohol? It’s also a a dangerous, cancer-causing drug.
I decided to take some photos of the crazy Christmas cards I’ve seen – and add in a few changes…
Drinking alcohol won’t help you survive Christmas – it will make it harder!
Adding booze into the mix makes everything more stressful, not less. Alcohol does NOT have magic, stress-busting qualities. Contrary to popular opinion, drinking actually increases stress. (I explained why here.)
The jokey nature of these cards makes it easy to ignore what we’re really doing when we drink – we’re consuming a mind-altering, toxic drug in order to numb out from our lives.
Rather than having to drink in order to survive life, wouldn’t it be better to create a life that feels so good, you don’t want to numb out from it?
If there’s one thing guaranteed to make Christmas a less-than-special, messy blur, it’s drinking your way through it.
For a lot of people, alcohol comes with terrible side effects: it increases their anxiety levels and makes them feel depressed.
It’s hard to feel ‘bright’ when you’re seriously hungover and your body is struggling to process a powerful drug.
It absolutely is a fun, happy time of year – but that has nothing to do with alcohol.
We’ve all been to parties where it doesn’t matter how much we drink, we still don’t have fun.
We’ve all had times when drinking has left us feeling sad and emotional. Or we’ve become irrationally angry and picked a fight for no reason.
Alcohol is not magic joy juice – we must stop giving it all the credit for the fun times in life.
It’s hard for me to alter this card. It’s just rubbish!
I can’t think of any good stories that start with “that one time I meant to drink one glass of wine but ended up knocking back an entire bottle… before passing out on the sofa and then waking up in the early hours, feeling terrible.”
For a lot of us, that is the reality of our drinking – and it isn’t very funny.
This card reminds me of something the columnist Giles Coren wrote recently. He said:
‘Don’t tell me booze makes parties go with a swing. If you can’t enjoy a party sober, you should stay home and do origami. And don’t give me “it loosens my tongue” because if you can’t talk without a beer in your hand you should stay silent, for you have nothing to say. And as for “Dutch courage”, Jesus. If you’re not brave enough to do something sober, it is because it is not a good thing to do.’
And finally… here’s one alcohol-themed Christmas card I think I approve of!
Alcohol is bad for your health, obviously. It’s also bad for your inner elf.
I’m talking about the bit of you that has to run around making the Christmas magic happen. Whether it’s buying presents, getting the food ready or organising a party… it’s all a hundred times easier (and more enjoyable) without a hangover.
This year will be my 5th booze-free Christmas and I’m really looking forward to it.
It’s a total myth that you need alcohol in your life in order to have fun, be social or enjoy Christmas. That’s just marketing hype.
Alcohol-free living is amazing at any time of year, but I particularly like being sober in December. Not having a hangover makes surviving the crazy festive season a lot easier!
My first ever alcohol-free Christmas felt like such a big deal at the time – I remember being really worried about it. But nowadays, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you’re feeling a bit anxious or unsure about the next few weeks, make sure you check out these 12 reasons for staying sober this December. I hope they inspire you to keep going! 🙂
1. You’ll feel like a superhero
People might tell you that this is a silly time to be quitting drinking. But moments like this can also be brilliant opportunities for taking action. You will feel incredibly proud of yourself for not drinking during one of the booziest times of the year.
2. You’ll have tons more free time
During this busy month, we could all do with more hours in the day. When you’re not losing time drinking (or thinking about drinking, or beating yourself up about drinking) you reclaim a LOT of lost hours and headspace.
3. Cutting out can be easier than cutting down
Moderating forces you to make endless decisions: what will you drink, where, when, how much? All those decisions gobble up your willpower. And of course, consuming a mind-altering drug makes it pretty hard to stick to your good intentions.
4. You can drive home from parties
This is still one of my favourite things about not drinking. No more staggering about in the cold, trying to hail down a taxi (I nearly got run over doing that once 🙈). You just jump in your car, put the heating on and drive yourself home. Easy peasy.
5. You’ll look better
It’s hard to disguise a puffy face or hangover bloat. If you want to feel great in your party dress, then skipping alcohol (and all the calories that come with it) will make a massive difference.
6. You’ll feel better
The silly season is an awful lot easier to navigate when you aren’t feeling sick or struggling with a massive headache. Alcohol is a powerful chemical that stresses nearly every organ in the body – during the winter flu season, this is the last thing you need.
7. It’ll be a massive confidence boost
It’s easy to get stuck in a story such as, ‘I’m a shy person, I can’t socialise without alcohol.’ The chances are you’re far more capable than you think you are. Wouldn’t it be awesome to surprise yourself?
8. You don’t have to worry about accidentally causing world war three…
Christmas isn’t always about sparkly lights and jolly japes. It can be pretty stressful at the best of times, without the fear that you’re going to have one too many and start telling your relatives what you really think of them! Your diplomacy skills are at their best when you’re sober.
9. Your relationships might grow stronger
Alcohol does a great job of keeping you stuck in a rut. Without really realising it, you tend to repeat the same behaviours, the same conversations, the same family arguments. Who knows what might happen with alcohol out of the way, not causing any drama?
10. You might realise that other people don’t drink as much as you thought…
We all have a bit of a confirmation bias – i.e. a tendency to interpret events in a way that confirms our preconceptions. Sometimes we want to believe that other people drink a lot, because it makes us feel better. When you stop, you might be pleasantly surprised by how little some friends actually drink.
11. You’ll get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions
Stopping drinking increases your chances of losing weight… and showing up at the gym 🙂
12. You’ll make good memories
This is the most important one of all, because this is what Christmas is really all about: spending quality time with friends and family. When you’re fully present, and living in the moment, you increase your chances of remembering this time together… for the right reasons.
The festive party season is an incredibly boozy time of year.
If you’re newly sober – or trying to be – I suspect you might be feeling a bit anxious about it. So, I wanted to jump in and encourage you to keep going, because alcohol-free living is a GREAT idea at any time of year 🙂
Don’t let pushy friends, family or sneaky adverts mess with your head. Take it from someone who’s been to a lot of Christmas parties, sober – you don’t need alcohol in order to celebrate or have a good time.
By choosing not to drink, the only thing you’ll be missing out on is a hangover. (I don’t know about you, but that suits me just fine…)
Please don’t stress about the upcoming party season. Here are 5 tips for staying alcohol-free:
Remember that alcohol does not have magic powers
It’s not what’s in your glass that dictates the success of an evening; it’s the mood you’re in before you go, the people you’re with, the atmosphere, the music and 101 other things.
Drinking at a bad party just means you’re drunk at a bad party.
Ultimately, parties are about humans interacting with other humans. Sometimes it will be a fun experience and sometimes it won’t. That’s normal.
If you go out and have a great time, then that’s brilliant. But if you have a bad time, that’s ok too. It’s only one night, and it’s all important information about what you do and don’t like. That knowledge is what’s going to help you create a life you don’t need to numb out from.
Remind yourself that you’re good at socialising sober, because you do it ALL the time!
We meet friends for coffee, we banter with our workmates, we go out for lunch, we strike up conversation with people in our gym class. All day long, we interact with other humans without alcohol.
Why should evenings be any different? The same rules of the world apply. When we were kids, we never needed to drink in order to have fun or ‘survive’ a party – so what’s different now?
Plan, plan, plan
The first part of your plan should be deciding whether or not you’re going to drink. I know that sounds like an obvious thing to say, but if you decide to wing it, or see how you feel when you get there, you will likely end up drinking. So make a decision now: yes or no.
Plan your drinks. If you’re going to a bar, check if there’s a non-alcoholic drinks menu on their website (there often is). It’s really helpful to know your options in advance. Order a drink as soon as you arrive – holding it gives you something to do with your hands and helps you feel less self-conscious!
You might like to plan what you’ll say if someone asks why you’re not drinking. (It’s really none of their business, but I did mention a few possible responses here.)
Also – how are you going to get home? Plan your escape route in advance so you can leave whenever you like.
Treat yourself well
If you’d normally spend a while getting ready to go out, or you’d buy a new dress or get your nails done, then make sure you still do all those things. You want to look good – it will make you feel more confident.
You could also arrange something nice for the day after a challenging event. Whether it’s brunch with a friend, or just something random that you fancy doing, it’s all part of looking after yourself. Plus, you’ll feel really good doing fun stuff with a clear head!
So often, what we believe to be true, becomes true. If you go to an event thinking, “this isn’t going to be as good as last year because I’m not drinking” then guess what? It probably won’t be.
Instead, force yourself to focus on the positives, such as how proud you’ll feel the next day. Not only will you be hangover-free, your confidence will be sky-high because you smashed it – you overcame your fears.
There is nothing quite like coming home after a fab night out and knowing you genuinely had fun, that you were fully present and living in the moment.
(Plus, taking your make-up off properly and cleaning your teeth is weirdly satisfying. It’s way better than collapsing into bed, half dressed.)
I’ve had some of the funniest – and happiest – nights out since I stopped drinking. You’ve got so much to look forward to! 🙂
I love sharing tips and advice to help keep you moving forward with your sober goals.
But the truth is, that stuff won’t have much of an impact if you’re approaching sobriety from a negative place.
If your focus is always on everything you don’t have, or can’t have, it can leave you feeling pretty fed up with life. And when you’re in that state of mind, you’re FAR more likely to hit wine o’clock and think “What’s the point?”
As lots of my American friends will be celebrating Thanksgiving this week, now feels like a great time to talk about practising gratitude and how this can benefit your sobriety.
*Pssst. If you’re thinking of skipping this post because it sounds a bit ‘touchy-feely’, stick with me.
I’m not into mumbo-jumbo nonsense either. But if a sceptic like me can be won over, so can you!
Why bother with gratitude?
Our brains naturally have a negativity bias. We’re wired to pay more attention to negative experiences. Back in the days when we were all hunter-gatherers, it was very useful to be constantly scanning the horizon for potential threats – but nowadays, that same behaviour can keep us stuck in a negative feedback loop.
When you’re working on something big and amazing – like stopping drinking – there are bound to be ups and downs, and challenges along the way. If we constantly feel a bit dissatisfied with life, it’s easy to think, “Why am bothering? I deserve a drink.”
Sobriety is a mindset game
The way you feel about yourself – and the way you perceive life – will affect your motivation to change.
For example, you can go out for a meal with friends, and spend the whole time feeling as if you’re missing out because you’re ordering soft drinks rather than cocktails. You can choose to focus on that and view the whole night through that lens.
OR you can choose to live in the moment and appreciate the fact that you’re enjoying a great meal and spending time with friends. That alone is enjoyable, because hey – you like eating food, right? And you like spending time with your lovely friends?
It doesn’t matter what’s in your glass.
You don’t need a mind-altering drug to get you through that situation or make it pleasant.
When we focus on being grateful, we’re reminded that life isn’t quite as difficult as we often perceive it to be. Gratitude is (excuse the pun) what makes the glass half full 🙂
Tests at the University of California found that people who kept a gratitude journal for two weeks felt happier and healthier. They exercised more, they drank less alcohol and their families and friends noticed they were nicer to be around. Plus, the effects lasted for several months.
How to practice gratitude:
Keep a gratitude journal
At the end of the day, write down 5 things or people that you’re grateful for and why. You could jot down five completely different things, or you could get really specific, and write five points about the same thing.
(E.g. I’m grateful for my dog because she shows me unconditional love, she gets me exercising every day, she makes me laugh with her silly antics…)
Or keep a ‘what went well’ list
This is a slightly different take on a traditional gratitude list. Take a few moments to reflect on the day, and write down three things that went well and why.
(E.g. I really enjoyed my exercise class today. Why? Because I felt as if I’d burned off some stress and I’d done something good for my mind and body.)
On some days, you will have to work a bit harder to think of things that went well, or things you’re grateful for – but that’s kind of the whole point!
You’re finding something to appreciate, even when you haven’t had the best of days.
What’ve you got to lose?
We all have negative thoughts from time to time, of course we do. But if you’re not careful, complaining can become a habit, and feeling as if life is less than perfect can become an easy place for your mind to rest.
Really, the only downside to gratitude is that: a) you have to find five minutes to do it, and b) you have to give up some comfy, time-sucking, negative emotions 🙂
Now it’s your turn.
Give this gratitude strategy a test drive in the comments below. Let me know, what are you grateful for today? What’s gone well for you?
“I am going to do something about my drinking — just as soon as this is out the way.”
I must have said that at least a hundred times 🙂
You know what it’s like: you have a lot on at work. Your partner’s feeling neglected. The fridge is empty and you have a to-do list longer than your arm. You want to stop drinking, but you’re so busy, it feels easier to put things off.
At this time of year – with Thanksgiving, Christmas and party season just around the corner – it’s easy to decide you’ll just forget about sobriety for now… but I hope this blog post motivates you to keep going.
It’s not too late to make 2017 the year you kick alcohol out of your life!
This is a tough one to start with, but it needs to be said. We all have excuses about not being able to quit drinking, and being ‘too busy’ is the perfect kind of excuse, because it is kind of true – we ARE busy!
However, when we say we ‘don’t have time’ to address our drinking, we overlook the fact that alcohol itself is a massive time thief. And sometimes, busyness is just a cover for something else.
Looking back, I think I often chose to be busy, in order to not have to deal with important things, or get out of my comfort zone.
Get clear on how alcohol is dominating your time
You already know that you’re less productive when you’re hungover, making it even harder to get through your never-ending to do list. But alcohol gobbles up time in other places too.
How much of your day is taken up worrying about your drinking, or battling with yourself about whether you’ll drink? How much of your day is structured around alcohol and giving yourself opportunities to drink? How many hours are you losing because you have to factor in time to drink and time to recover?
Get super clear about this.
Treat yourself like a project
Whenever you want to change something about yourself, you have to make a bit of time for it. After all, you’ve got a journey to go through: you’ve got to educate yourself about alcohol, learn how to handle cravings and find some new coping mechanisms.
If you’re not drinking, you can afford to put aside 15-20 minutes a day for sober homework: reading, learning and planning how you’ll deal with different situations. Schedule this time in your diary, in the same way you would do a doctor’s appointment or a deadline at work.
There’s something uniquely powerful about dedicating time and space to your sobriety. It honours the journey you’re on, and makes it a priority in your life.
Say NO to stuff
Remember, some people go away to rehab so they can stop drinking without the distractions of everyday life. You’re doing this whilst getting on with normal, day to day living, so take it easy!
You can ask for help and you can let people do some things for you. Say no to stuff. Just because you’re saying no now, doesn’t mean it’s going to be like this forever.
You should definitely say no to the kind of thing that you can only survive by drinking. (Nothing in life should require a mind-altering, toxic drug – if you have to drink in order to survive dinner with friends, it’s time to stop and think.)
Remember, there is no magic window of opportunity
You don’t have to quit drinking on a Monday, or in January. You don’t have to wait until that work party, holiday, or birthday etc is out the way. You can just take action right now. After all, there will never be a totally ‘perfect’ time to stop drinking, because there will always be something on the horizon.
If alcohol is making you miserable, then right now is a good time to make a change.