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.
How do you know if it’s time to quit drinking?
I asked myself this question many times.
I’d google “Am I an alcoholic?” and would fill out endless online questionnaires. But nothing seemed very straightforward.
I didn’t meet the stereotype of your typical problem drinker – my life wasn’t in the gutter. I still had a good job and a roof over my head. I never drank in the morning. I didn’t even drink everyday.
Sometimes, I’d stop for a whole week, just to prove I could do it. (I’d be miserable the entire time, but seven days off proved I didn’t have a problem, right?)
When I was doing my late night, drunken google searches, I struggled to find anything that really resonated with me, or spoke to the way I drank.
This blog post is exactly the kind of article I wish I’d stumbled across when I was looking for help.
5 Signs It’s Time To Take A Break From Booze:
You spend a lot of time thinking about your drinking
Alcohol can take up so much brain space. I used to spend hours thinking about when I’d let myself drink next – what would I have? Where? How much? And then the next day, I’d still be thinking about alcohol, as I beat myself up for drinking more than I intended.
Most regular drinkers do not spend a great deal of time thinking about booze (and they don’t spend much time on sites like this!)
You’re creating lots of rules around your drinking
I ask everyone on my stop drinking course to list out all the ways they’ve tried to ‘control’ their drinking in the past. More than 600 women have been through the programme now, and the answers I get to this question still surprise me!
For example: buying low alcohol wine, buying wine in small bottles, promising you’ll only drink on certain days, banning alcohol from the home, sticking to one kind of drink, drinking alcohol you don’t really like the taste of, only drinking after a certain time, promising to be the designated driver, keeping a sticker chart of drinking days and non drinking days…
To cut a long story short: none of these rules work for long.
You hide how much you’re drinking
Perhaps you drink alone late at night and hide the empties the next day. Or you sneakily head back into the kitchen to top up your glass. Maybe you make a big show of opening a bottle of wine to share with your partner, pretending that it’s your first drink of the night.
Once you start hiding your drinking, it’s easy to get stuck in the habit, without really acknowledging what you’re doing. Hiding your drinking is a sure sign that part of you knows something is wrong – you know you’re drinking more than you’re happy with.
You fear something bad is about to happen.
Perhaps nothing truly awful has happened as a result of your drinking – yet. But you fear that some kind of disaster is just around the corner.
Maybe you’ve already had a few close shaves – getting behind the wheel when you shouldn’t have, or making a big mistake at work because you were hungover. It’s stressful, constantly feeling as if you’re only just managing to keep it all together.
You’re suffering as a result of your drinking
Never mind how much you drink, what you drink, where, when or who with. Ultimately, it all comes down to this: is your drinking making you miserable? If it is, then you owe it to yourself to explore alcohol-free living properly.
(I’m not going to suggest cutting down or moderating your intake, because the chances are you’ve already tried that, many times. I explain here why moderation rarely works.)
I recommend taking a proper break from alcohol – at least 6 weeks – so you can put some space between you and your last drink, and find out what sobriety is really all about.
You’ve got nothing to lose… and who knows what might happen along the way? If you give alcohol-free living a proper try, you might just discover it’s pretty amazing 🙂
As it’s Halloween tomorrow, now seems like a good time to talk about ‘treats’.
So often we say things like:
“I’m going to have a glass of wine tonight because it’s a treat.”
“Let’s get a bottle… I know it’s unhealthy, but it’s a special treat isn’t it…”
“Go on – one won’t hurt. Treat yourself, you’ve been good all week!”
But is alcohol really a special ‘treat’?
Somewhere along the way we realised – correctly – that alcohol was harming us. But instead of deciding we would raise our standards and not invite it into our lives, we opted to make it a ‘treat’ instead.
And what happens then?
By telling ourselves that alcohol is a treat, we are tricking ourselves. We’re glorifying this cheap, toxic poison. We’re putting it up on a pedestal and making it ‘special’.
If you want to stop drinking – and actually feel good about it – you have to break up with the idea that alcohol is special.
Here’s how to do it.
Be aware of the story you’re telling yourself
What we think, we become – the beliefs and stories we repeat internally tend to play out externally. I know that on the face of it, the idea of ‘being good during the week’ and ‘having a treat on Friday night’ sounds like a balanced and healthy approach…
However, as soon as alcohol becomes a treat you’re saving yourself for, looking forward to, or planning ahead in advance, you are – whether you realise it or not – making it ‘special’. You’re training your mind to look forward to consuming this low quality, mind-altering, cancer-causing, toxic poison.
Reframe, reframe, reframe
You have the power to retrain your mind and rewrite your stories. Stop saying that you’re ‘treating yourself’ to a glass of wine – be clear that you’re treating yourself to a hangover, a night of disturbed sleep and a day of feeling like crap.
Rather than telling yourself that you ‘deserve’ a drink, ask whether you deserve to feel lousy tomorrow. Do you deserve to drink more than you intend to, pass out on the sofa or wake up feeling tired and dehydrated? Is that the special treat you deserve?
Put your energy into seeing alcohol for what it really is. Don’t romanticise or glamorise it. Don’t make it special – make it feel distinctly un-special.
For the women I coach inside my Getting Unstuck course, the biggest triumph is not “I’ve managed to resist wine all weekend!” but rather, “there’s an open bottle of wine at home and I didn’t even WANT a glass.” That’s what happens when you get clear on what is a treat and what isn’t.
Upgrade your treats
You should never feel guilty about treating yourself because it’s an important part of self-care. But now is the time to redefine your treats. Raise your standards and choose treats that genuinely make you feel good.
So what could you do? You could treat yourself to a new book, a long bath, or date night at your favourite restaurant. Maybe a treat for you is 30 mins watching TV, or reading a magazine and just letting yourself do very little.
Perhaps you’d love a day out with your family, a spa treatment, or an afternoon doing your favourite hobby. Maybe you’d like to treat yourself to a proper lunch break (rather than eating at your desk!) or a mid-week trip to the cinema, or that exercise class you’re interested in.
Make a list of what really feels like a treat for you. Focus on things you know will take care of you and make you feel great afterwards. Plan something now, schedule it and then do it!
Have a happy, hangover-free Halloween! x