When I first quit drinking, one of my biggest concerns was how I’d celebrate without alcohol. 

I wondered: how would I mark special occasions? Victories? Big accomplishments? My birthday? Anniversaries? Or the end of a tough week? 

We’re so conditioned to use alcohol to celebrate stuff like this, it can feel hard to imagine doing it any other way.

It was a relief to discover that there are plenty of ways to celebrate sober – and if you do it right, you’ll be left feeling much happier…


How to celebrate without alcohol:


Get clear on what you ‘deserve’

Let go of that old, unhelpful mantra of “I deserve a drink!” You don’t ‘deserve’ a toxic poison at any time – no one does. You don’t deserve to wake up feeling guilty and hungover, with blurry, unclear memories of what should’ve been a special and celebratory moment. Why do something that harms you and makes you unhappy afterwards? You deserve better than that. 


Focus on celebrating you

A lot of those “I can’t celebrate sober!” thoughts are driven by a fear of what other people will think, or a belief that you have to celebrate things a certain way. We get caught up in the external stuff of what other people expect. But when you think about it, most celebrations (big or small) are really about celebrating you

In fact, the moments we celebrate the most often may not involve other people. For example: a personal achievement, hitting a sober milestone, finishing a difficult task. So keep your focus on how you want to celebrate and honour yourself. What would genuinely feel good? 

Here are some ideas:

Things you love to do and wish you did more of (e.g. reading, massages, time to yourself)
Things that make you feel good (e.g. sex, long baths, your favourite gym class)
Spending time with people you love being around (e.g. great friends, family, pets)
Things that make you feel special (e.g. fresh flowers, getting your hair done)
Stuff that feels really indulgent (e.g. going to the cinema on a weekday afternoon)
Things you’ve been wanting to do for ages (e.g. theatre trip, concerts, museum tour)


Plan how you’ll deal with other people

If you are celebrating with others, it helps to plan ahead and decide what you’ll say if people ask why you’re not drinking. (I have some suggestions here). Think carefully about what you truly want – are you throwing a big party because that’s enjoyable for you, or because it’s what other people expect you to do? If it’s your special moment then you get to decide how to celebrate.

I turned 30 a few months after I quit drinking and I’d planned on throwing a big party to mark the occasion. However, as the date got closer, I realised I just didn’t want to do it – I felt stressed out and wasn’t excited by the idea. Sobriety gave me the confidence to ditch the big party plans and arrange a series of smaller meet-ups with close friends instead, which felt much more ‘me’.

The most important thing to remember is that the contents of your glass don’t matter. It’s the people you’re with, and the quality time you spend together, that really counts. We’ve been conditioned to think that you need to consume a liquid drug in order to mark an occasion properly – or celebrate the ‘right’ way – but that simply isn’t the case. 


Remember, you have tons of experience in this area!

When you were a child, you never needed alcohol to celebrate a special moment – parties were all about games, cake and ice cream. When we did well at school, we were rewarded with stickers and praise from the teacher (and that was so exciting, right?) The things we ‘need’ in order to celebrate and feel acknowledged change all the time.


Don’t be put off by any initial awkwardness

The first few times you celebrate without alcohol might feel challenging, but this doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or destined for failure. Not at all. Those feelings are just a sign that you’re breaking a well-established pattern and learning how to do something different. Change is often uncomfortable at first, so don’t make any judgements until you’ve practised celebrating sober a couple of times. 


If you’d like some help to stop drinking and create an alcohol-free life you love, click here for details of my online course.


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