Today I wanted to share an extra large dose of motivation and inspiration…
…Something to get you fired up for the New Year (or help power you through the next week, if you’re aiming for an alcohol-free Christmas!)
As a sobriety coach, I’m in touch with a lot of people who’re living incredible lives after ditching alcohol. When you let go of something that’s been holding you back, all kinds of wonderful things tend to happen!
So, a few days ago I asked some of my Getting Unstuck students to answer a simple question:
Is there something you’ve experienced recently that would never have happened, if you’d still been drinking?
Here are their answers 🙂
“I applied for, got and started my DREAM job. I wake up each morning well rested, rock the early morning barre class and I’m at the office by 8am ready to take on the day — clearheaded, calm and guilt free! Flashback to a year ago and I was slogging through the day at a job that had truly become a dead end — showing up at 10ish, riddled with stress and anxiety, and wondering how all of the well-adjusted people pulled it off.”
“I celebrated my 70th birthday two days ago by holding a champagne afternoon tea for my female relatives and friends while enjoying AF drinks myself. I treasure the note in my daughter’s card: ‘We are VERY proud of your enormous accomplishment this year! Vive le mocktail!!'”
“My son trusted me to look after his children for two nights.”
“I went on holiday with my parents and son to the Isle of Wight. It rained the entire holiday, every day. Instead of numbing the misery in the evening with my mum (who also didn’t drink) we played lots of games and each morning I did a 30 minute run in the rain!! I have NOT run my entire life!! Also… I bought an electric drum kit!! I used to play when I was younger and feel that I’ve taken a little something back for myself. So although I still work full time and take my son to all his sporting commitments, I now jump on my drum kit too. Before, I would have got in from work, necked several glasses and by 8pm I’d be ready to head to bed.”
“I bought a new horse and am out there ‘doing it’ rather than moping around in a stable talking about doing it, dreaming about doing it or avoiding doing it!!!!”
“If I were still drinking, I wouldn’t be enjoying the relationships I do now. Being able to approach being a girlfriend, sister and daughter with a clear head has been a source of great pride and joy.”
“I’ve loved seeing the look of pride in my daughter’s eyes every time she sees me return from an event or social occasion totally alcohol free.”
“If I was still drinking, I wouldn’t be planning my backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail!”
“Since quitting alcohol, I got engaged to the love of my life, got a puppy and graduated my masters program with a 4.0!”
“My husband and I are separating, but we’re now friends, rather than the enemies we were about to become. Although we will not be married in the future, I now have a lifelong friend which was the core of us, so I’m eternally grateful that was saved.”
“I’ve gained self respect. That’s the best thing, no more head games.”
“I’ve sat back down at my piano and improved myself tremendously… my two young boys have seen me practice and move up a grade quicker than expected (I’m SOO proud of that). I bought myself a flute for my 50th birthday this Christmas, (partly so that when I’m 60 I can say I’ve been playing it for 10 years!) I’m teaching myself to play… it’s an utter joy. I’ve also put my foot down about Christmas and the in-laws… it’s my 50th on Christmas Eve and we’re going away skiing. I’m NOT spending my birthday preparing vegetables for anyone!! 😉 Gosh – this list is endless… I was so scared of long, dull & lonely evenings and now I don’t seem to have anywhere near enough time to do all the things I want to do… I’m so busy doing them!
“If I’d still been drinking, I would not have trusted myself to have my one year old granddaughter stay overnight. This is something I’ve really enjoyed doing.”
“Without sobriety, I could not have maintained an A in my nursing program for 4 consecutive quarters! I’ve gone from a life of scrabbling to keep it together, to a life that feels richer, slower and more fulfilled.”
“I used to think some people were kind of out of my league socially… if they were too together and polished. Not anymore. Sobriety – plus all the support I’ve received here – has made me so much more confident.”
“I have a better relationship with my husband, more patience with the kids and I feel like a better mother. Plus, I’m in a better financial position because I got a new job – and I’ve saved so much money by not buying wine, haha!”
“I always thought I suffered with bad nerves, because I used to wake up feeling nervy like I had done something terrible. Those feelings have gone now and it feels absolutely wonderful.”
“I published my first book in October! I had been trying to finish this for eight years. Being alcohol free unleashed my creative energy!”
“Today I made the first move to get together with my half sister. We haven’t spoken since September 2009! Whilst things will never be the same I’m hopeful for my dad’s sake we will be able to get to a civil relationship.”
“A three day tramp in the mountains, an overnight tramp with my daughter and partner… and my sister trusted me with my nephew overnight.”
“I’m a proud April 16 graduate of your course. I can’t point to one good thing – life is just better, period.”
“157 days AF today, and the most wonderful thing that has happened to me since I stopped drinking is that I’ve got my life back. For that I will be eternally grateful.”
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?