How To Celebrate Without Alcohol (And Feel Good About It)

How To Celebrate Without Alcohol (And Feel Good About It)

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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22 Comments

  1. Love this post❣️ About to celebrate 39 years of marriage. Looking forward to sharing a giant gooey chocolate cake with my loving and devoted husband, children and darling one year old granddaughter!! Life is better than ever sober!

    Reply
    • Congratulations on your upcoming wedding anniversary! Sounds like the perfect way to celebrate 🙂

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      • I celebrated my 50th this year by jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet and climbing Ben Nevis with my family. So many happy memories instead of blurred ones.

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        • That is an AMAZING way to celebrate! 🙂

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    • I really want to give this a try but…….getting started feels like setting myself up to fail!!

      Reply
  2. Just got married in a small ceremony with my now husband and mom, while we plan the big wedding that’s taking place in a year. Took a lot of the pressure off of us to do the small ceremony now and have even more fun planning the big party. I thoroughly enjoyed such a special moment sans alcohol and cherished the fact that I’m now a wife. Planning a big party is also so much more fun and far less stressful not drinking. I know I’ll enjoy the big day sober and with a clear mind, just like how I felt this past weekend for the small ceremony. I also owe my marriage to my sobriety too and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

    Reply
    • Wow – such an inspiring post! Congratulations Lo! Wishing you all the best as you settle into newly married life 🙂

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    • Congratulations Vicky! 100 days! Looking forward to that AF celebration! The greatest feeling! Feeling so blessed to be part of this wonderful group of ladies in our course! THANK YOU KATE!

      Reply
  3. Kate, I’m a graduate of your October 2018 class and am coming up one year AF. My husband and I have long had a tradition of celebrating the start of the weekend with drinks on a Friday night. (He works away during the week so it’s our time to catch up). I feared we might lose this quality time together, but we’ve been able to continue this tradition – but now I pour something AF in my glass instead. I still get the same “its the weekend” feeling, only now I can follow through on our plans for the weekend because I’m not feeling awful!

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    • That is wonderful to hear Sue – proof that it really doesn’t matter what’s in your glass! Lovely to hear from you ❤️

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  4. I have a birthday this week and I’m celebrating AF with my kids at a new restaurant that will help with the start of new beginnings. Choosing to be AF is the best birthday gift I could ever give myself!

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    • It really is a great gift. Wishing you a very happy birthday Becky!

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  5. I have 100 days in and I feel fantastic! I haven’t had any cravings and I’ve not felt like I was missing out! I am a very sociable woman and my lifestyle hasn’t changed at all…..except it’s alcohol FREE! Thanks Kate for having a support group just for us ladies, we typically, as women tend to keep our pain to ourselves…..you have given us a much needed tool to stay sober! Brilliant…each and every lady’s story on this site touches me and I am grateful for all my blessings! It’s nice to be present….and credible…..and clear headed!
    Vicky

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    • What an inspiring post – so pleased to hear this Vicky, and congratulations on your 100 days! 🙂

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  6. I agree so much with Sue’s comment about starting the weekend with a glass of wine with my husband things we did for years and now I can finally pour a glass of AF wine or a nice sparkling glass of lemon water!! And I’m ok if he has a glass of wine which doesn’t effect me at all! Since I started this course my husband was so happy for me seeing his wife get healthy again he now does not care weather he has a glass of wine he would rather sit with me and have a good cup of coffee and relax and watch a good movie! It’s a beautiful healthy life being sober! We all deserve that!

    Reply
    • It’s a pleasure having you on my course Andrea. I think this AF lifestyle suits you!

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  7. I love point no. 4 – this is a mindset I’ve used a lot in my sobriety- I was a non-drinker as a child before I ever started drinking, and I went on brilliant parties, holidays , had great birthdays, all of it sober – all I’m doing now is exactly what I always did, happily sober !

    Reply
    • Exactly. Back then it never even occurred to us that we needed to drink in order to have fun 🙂

      Reply
  8. I enjoy reading your emails. We entertain at our house on Saturdays with family & friends at our pool. Everyone arrives at 11:30 and leaves around 3:30 pm. We provide lunch & enjoy planning our menus. I make a pitcher of ice tea and serve soda, bubbly waters and water.

    Since we don’t drink and love to entertain, the timing of our poolside lunch is perfect. We have fun. Guests are not looking for alcohol. It’s a win win.

    Guess I’m saying for us… it’s in the planning!

    Reply
    • I agree, planning really helps. It sounds as if you have a thing going there!

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  9. Being sober means being ‘special’ FOR ME, not worrying about what anyone else feels. ‘Living in the moment.’ By the way, I had a bit of a heart to heart with a guy who’s party I want to sober recently and he commented on how ‘different’ I was, how he saw the ‘real me’.

    Reply
  10. This is a post I need to keep reading. I’m 11 days AF and my biggest challenge is feeling like I can have fun or look forward to events without alcohol. I have to constantly remind myself it wasn’t that long ago I never drank and had fun (I’m 29), but I’m so conditioned to think celebrating as an adult means drinking. Its definitely been mentally challenging for me. With Labor Day weekend coming up I keep thinking how it meant BBQs, college football, and a lots of alcohol. I’ve already been thinking of different things to do where I’ll be less tempted, but I can’t wait for the time when I feel as excited and happy about doing things without alcohol. I need to gain the confidence that I don’t need that liquid courage to just be me and “let loose”.

    Thanks for all you do and writing these blogs, they’ve helped me the most since I decided to take this step in my life.

    Reply

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