5 Mindset Shifts For A Happy, Alcohol-Free Christmas

5 Mindset Shifts For A Happy, Alcohol-Free Christmas

When I was struggling with my drinking, I couldn’t get my head around the idea of a sober Christmas and New Year.

Booze is such a big part of the festive season, and I was totally convinced that alcohol-free meant fun-free. There was no way I could be sober and still have a good time … right?


It took me ages and ages to realise this, but sobriety is a mindset game.

It’s your attitude, your outlook and your beliefs that count – not the contents of your glass.

So no matter how stressed out or apprehensive you are, let’s try and get some perspective on this, so you can head into the festivities with the right mindset.

Here are 5 limiting beliefs – and how to reframe them:


‘Christmas will never be the same without alcohol’

Yep. It won’t be the same … because things are going to be so much better. This festive season you’re going to be bright-eyed, clear-headed and fun to be around. This will be the year when you actually get round to doing all those things you plan to do, like reading books, watching Christmas films and catching up with people you haven’t seen in a while. This will be the year when you actually tick things off your to-do list and feel good because it’s not a last minute rush. This will be the year when you can eat an extra mince pie (or two) because you’re not consuming your body weight in liquid calories.


‘Alcohol is what makes Christmas special’

Nope. Christmas is special for all kinds of reasons but alcohol isn’t one of them. Fortunately for you, this festive season is going to be your best yet, because this will be the year that you don’t waste time drinking, recovering from drinking or thinking about your next drink. Instead, this will be the year where you feel a new sense of self respect. This will be the year when you create new memories and work out what’s genuinely special for you and your family.


‘Alcohol brings people together’

It’s not booze that brings people together – it’s the festive season. This is one of the few times of the year when we all get some time off work! This year, you’re going to see parties and gatherings for what they really are – chances to spend time with people you like and care about. This will be the year when you can appreciate spending quality time with friends and family, because you’ll be fully present and living in the moment.


‘Alcohol helps me cope with stress / annoying visitors / family arguments…’

Real life doesn’t always go smoothly, but drinking won’t help with that. Alcohol can massively backfire on us; it makes us more argumentative, more sad and less resilient. As coping mechanisms go, it’s a pretty crap one. This festive season, you’re going to face tricky situations head on. This will be the year when you discover you’re stronger than you thought, and some situations are not as bad as you imagined. This will be the year when you’re clear-headed enough to know what you really enjoy and what you don’t – so that next year, you can plan some changes. Big changes…


‘I’ll feel as if I’m missing out’

What, missing out on the hangovers? Missing out on the headaches and guilt and remorse? No way. This Christmas you’re going to remember that you’re choosing to do this. You are choosing to give yourself the best holiday possible by keeping a toxin out of your system. This will be the year when you discover that you don’t need to consume a mind-altering drug in order to have a good time. This will be the year when you realise that some people are actually a bit jealous that you don’t need to drink. And this will be the year when you discover there is nothing to miss … and everything to gain.


As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Please share any tips and advice in the comments below. Have a wonderful Christmas!


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  1. Hi Kate,

    I love your description of alcohol as a ‘mind altering drug’ as it is so apt. Unfortunately I like that affect, and I am missing it – but I know that it is actually a false happiness, and it all too often ended up in real misery. This Christmas however, my main concern is finding my nearest and dearest annoying as they get more drunk, and I will not have the comforting haze of booze to get through it. (My family are lovely but being the only sober one puts you on a different wavelenghth)I think I will take myself off for a bit (bath or walk or to read)if I need to, rather than sit and endure.
    My other annoyance at the moment is weight loss. I had really hoped that it would happen fairly quickly, but I have put on weight despite going to the gym everyday doing high intensity workouts/spin/swimming. I have been enjoying the odd mince pie and bowl of ice cream, but I feel these are neccessary as treats for when I am tired in the evening. I am 7 weeks in, and this is the one thing which is making my motivation wain. I’m not about to go back to booze as NOTHING will change if I do, but some reassurance that the body will readjust soon would be great! x x x

    • Alcohol is a happiness stealer. It robs us of genuine joy, and offers something false instead. If alcohol wasn’t so normalised, we’d think that taking a mind altering drug was a crazy idea! Sober, you have a much better chance of creating a life you genuinely love. Congratulations on your 7 weeks sobriety. Don’t worry about the weight loss just yet. It will happen with time!

    • Hi! I had this too at 7 weeks and replaced the wine with alcohol free cider – but part of what you’re missing about wine is the SUGAR!! So it’s hard, but if you try eating an avacado or some chicken or olives instead of the icecream your sugar addiction will fade too… hope I haven’t spoken out of line. It’s a wrench but when you’re off the sugar too then things start to really improve on the weight and body front too! Love and festive cheer to all xxxxx

      • Thank you for your wise words Beany! I am def going to try the tasty yet not sweet snacks instead of puddings and I’ll see how it goes. I never thought I had a sweet tooth before – even though I was getting through a minimum of hald a bottle of wine a night (usually more)! x x x

        • Hey, you’re welcome hon! Hope it works for you too!! Merry Christmas x

    • thank you i needed your words this is my first Xmas sober and i need all the help i can get to get me through it

  2. Point # 3 definitely true!
    Made it through my best friends’ annual gift trading party last night with a clear head and had very enjoyable conversations with people I have known for years but never REALLY spent time focusing on-nobody noticed (or cared) that I was having coffee and sparkly water-
    Indulged in great food and laughs-was a good feeling to actually be PRESENT!
    Bonus: I spied my BF drinking seltzer w lime -wouldn’t go as far to say she was inspired…but maybe 🙂

    • I love nights like that. And it sounds like you’re a good influence!

  3. I have been receiving your emails for a few weeks now and I find all quite inspiring. I haven’t yet stopped as I can’t find the right attitude and dont know how to start and I still crave. I am waiting for your class to start and then I hope it will change my relationship and thoughts about alcohol

    • No problem Julie – sometimes it is easier to make a fresh start in the New Year. We’ll start the next course on the 2nd January – I’ll be sending you some more info later this week 🙂

    • What really helped me was getting into nature however that looks to you, walks, hikes, snowshoeing that natural high of being outdoors will soon supersede any synthetic high you could ever want…true story. Stay strong it’s all about the attitude when it comes to quitting something that everyone else seems so conditioned to. Don’t be a follower blaze your own trail soon people will want to start following you. Once the attitude shifts so will your conditioned thoughts about booze.

  4. I am focusing on playing it forward.
    Not thinking about what I won’t be doing Christmas Day but instead thinking about what I will be doing early Boxing Day.
    Going for a nice walk in the fresh air, maybe some Yoga. Feeling fab and playing with my kids and their new toys.
    While everyone else sleeps off the booze

  5. Kate, Thanks again for another great topic. I am finding that my mind set is everything. It is not always easy to keep those old drinking tapes with lies from playing on repeat in my mind but, as I continue to work on my sobriety it is easier to challenge and determine what is or is not reality. Every word of this post resonated with me and I will re-read it frequently over the next few weeks. Please remember to send the sign up information for the class that starts January 2nd; I’m ready to start working and learning more to remain in recovery.

    • Mindset is indeed everything! You’re on my list Diane – I’ll be sending you an email on Thursday 🙂

  6. This will be my first sober Christmas (with the excpetion of my pregnancies) for 20 years. I am looking forward to it. I stopped drinking because I am a binge drinkers and I now how reflux and barretts esophagus. I am having surgery in 2017 to help prevent the likelihood og esophagus cancer later on down the track. I am hoping that at 38 I can reach my goal of becoming a healthy and fit 40 year old. Thank you for this blog it really helps me to change my perspective and feel like the lucky one that I have gained so much awareness this year, and now I am empowered enough to make this choice.

    • Sobriety will be a great Christmas present. I hope the surgery goes well Belinda 🙂

  7. Great post! It’s all about seeing through the lies that surround alcohol. Maybe it was fun once upon a time, and it followed through on its promises sometimes, but that does stop and a person is left with horrible cravings and an endless cycle of regret and pain. This is my 3rd Xmas sober, and I feel light and happy thinking about the holidays (partly because I’m with my sweet in-laws down south!) Not drinking has become the new normal, and it is liberating. Happy holidays Kate and all! : )

  8. I’m so glad I found The Sober School and signed up to Kate’s blogs,as I stopped drinking alcohol nearly one year ago,on New Years Day.I went to a wonderful party last NYE,and drunk champagne all night.I did’nt feel drunk,but the next day I suffered the hangover from hell !!!!
    It actually felt like I’d been poisoned ( which is exactly what alcohol does to you ) and all I wanted was to feel normal and for all the pain and sickness to go away….i said “never again” but actually meant it for once.

    I really enjoy the taste of alcohol free substitutes,and I have been to parties throughout the year and disproved to myself the myth that we need alcohol to enjoy ourselves,whilst all along I had drunk it because I thought I had to in order to have fun.
    And this NYE I am going to the same friend’s party,same place….but no alcohol this time!

  9. Hi. I’m on day 18 alcohol free. I got myself a tshirt printed up – just plain black with the single word ‘can’ on the front. When I’m struggling, it reminds me that I can do this when others reckon I can’t. (Like the clip from Toystory when Woody tells Buzz he can’t fly!) Might dot one or two postit notes around my desk as work/home/ in my book with the same, just to remind me. Yes, I can.

  10. I am gearing up to stop drinking after the new year as I know I cannot do moderation and I know it’s a habit that has been going on for way too long and it’s really beginning to drain me – I have finally admitted that to myself and my friends. When I found the Sober School site I was absolutely thrilled so thank you.It is better than any of the books I have read because I can relate to the people who write in, share the same experiences and the information you give Kate is priceless. I need to know that I may feel awful for a few days maybe weeks, maybe longer and that’s ok, that’s normal – but I need to know that my body,skin,hair,sleep and energy will improve; that I have a lot to look forward to when I raise my glass for the last time. I love the way everyone has this opportunity to support each other and also to seek support. What suprised me is that I have reduced my drinking already by a third just from reading the blogs. I have been having nights off and my partner has been joining me and do you know what – I feel better. I am looking forward to the new me but I am not expecting it to be easy.

    • I’m 2 months sober and I look and feel amazing…..
      I think the clock has wound back years.
      I sleep quite a bit. Nice restorative sleep.
      Before when I felt tired I would drink wine and then end up binging on 2 bottles, followed by 1-2 recovery and then repeat the binge. I also used to smoke.
      Now when I feel tired I accept that I’m tired – have a nice smelling bath and an early night and reap the rewards the next day

      It gets easier as each week goes by and your life becomes more enjoyable and so much more manageable and meaningful

      Look forward to a great 2017 x

  11. I am not sure where I am in my journey. I have not drank in four days. I was sad but I do not regret not drinking of course. Hoping to get to a point where I enjoy not drinking… Merry Christmas

  12. This is a great site, I’m struggling, I cut down my wine consumption at home, went to a family meal and had 3 beers, 2 bottles of wine, was with my husband who was driving and not drinking, I cant remember getting home, woke up depressed and stressed. I’m up and down, I know I can do it, I’m 58, my mother was a horrible drunk she was drinking from about age 11,she died 20 years ago through her life of drinking. Sorry to go on. Thank you for this site.

  13. I love reading the posts on this site. I’m 8 weeks sober today and the most important thing I’ve learned so far is that I’m an alcoholic. I honestly never saw it before. I’ve always worked, never been fired from a job, been happily married for over a decade, managed to maintain reasonably good relationships with my family, help out at all events at my kids school, never been in trouble with the police and even run marathons…. but I’m an alcoholic. A high functioning one but an alcoholic.

    I’ve stayed sober before (during my pregnancies) but this time is different. This time I’m not counting the days until I can drink again. I’m counting the days I’ve been sober. This is my first sober Christmas in years and I feel like a light has been switched on in my brain. Part of me wants to shout it from the rooftop, “I’m an alcoholic” because I don’t feel shame. I feel pride that the truth has finally dawned. I’ve spent decades in denial but now, at last I can start to try to be the best possible version of myself. This version won’t be perfect but it will be the real, authentic me.

    Another part of me wants to keep my new insight secret. So, I’m not shouting it from the rooftop. For now,the realisation that I’m alcoholic is so new to me and so precious,I’m carrying it around with me like a treasured gift. The best Christmas gift ever. The knowledge that I can never drink again because drinking in moderation isn’t possible for me. The knowledge that I’m an alcoholic but that’s okay because I’ve realised it before its too late.

    The second biggest thing I’ve learnt during the last 2 months is that being sober doesn’t make life easy. A number of personal and work-related issues are kicking off at the moment and my emotions and patience are really being tested. However, what I’ve noticed is that I’m meeting conflict head on. When I was drinking I used to procrastinate and allow myself to be walked over or completely overreact. There was no consistency in my approach. Now I’m attempting to stand up for myself whilst listening to and remaining respectful of the opinions of others. It’s not easy and I’m making mistakes. But I’m trying.

    8 weeks of sobriety has given me more insight than I got in 25 years of drinking. Now that I finally see the truth I can’t wait to get on with the process of recovery. And I know that recovery won’t happen overnight. I’ve spent many, many years poisoning myself and it will take time to reverse the damage. But my mindset is different now. I can’t know for certain what the future holds but I do know for certain that reading posts on this site will ensure that I don’t drink today.

    • Maria, thank you. I’m five weeks sober and finally shedding some really unhealthy behaviours and relationships. Not easy, but no going back. Happy new year to you.

      • Happy new year to you too Kate. It’s so good to feel a connection with someone who is at about the same stage of this journey because it can feel quite lonely at times. None more so than last night when I found myself sober at a New Year’s Eve party for the first time in many, many years. I was the only sober person there and for the first time since I stopped drinking 8 weeks ago,I felt like an alien who had just landed on a strange planet!

        Despite feeling out of place I managed to do a bit of awkward dancing whilst the drunk people attempted astonishly impressive back flips and the splits. At midnight I took part in a conga in the street and remained standing whilst the rest of the conga train seemed to collide with an invisible tree and fall over one by one, dominoes-style. By 10 minutes past midnight, my feet hurt and I could no longer understand much of what was being said so I called it a night.

        Three things I learnt last night….
        1) even though I joined in with everything, my non drinking seemed to anger a couple of my friends who tried to force me to drink and then turned their backs on me when I declined. It’s upset me a bit but I think it probably says more about them than me.

        2) It is totally possible to spend hours in the company of really drunk people and remain sober.

        3) THE most important thing I learnt last night happened as I was saying my goodbyes. I had noticed a man in the middle of the dance floor throughout the evening; his hilarious, outrageous dance moves made him difficult to miss! I had compared his total lack of inhibition to my own social awkwardness and felt a little nostalgic for the Dutch courage effect of drinking. When I was saying my goodbyes and getting hugged over and over again by people who had forgotten they’d already said goodbye to me, he spoke completely coherently and I discovered to my amazement that I wasn’t the only sober person in the building. It turns out Mr Life and Soul of the party is a recovering alcoholic and hasn’t touched a drop for over 20 years! He told me to hang in there and that the awkwardness in social situations gets easier over time. I love that the first sober person I spoke to in 2017 was so happy and fun-loving; a total inspiration which I take as a sign from the universe that I am on the right track. Even if that does mean I lose a few friends along the way.

        I’m so new to this way of living, I worry about how easy it would be to be derailed. But for today at least I know I won’t drink and I couldn’t be happier about that.

  14. I am really enjoying the voice your are giving to sobriety. Healthy, fun, positive.


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