Ahh, Christmas: a time of peace and joy for all, right? It also happens to be a time for family arguments, visits from people you don’t much care for and endless bullshit marketing messages. When everyone around you is going on and on about how wonderful wine is, the festive season can feel like an endurance test – the sober person’s Ironman. The good news is that there are steps you can take to make your first sober Christmas a little easier.
DECIDE YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DRINK
At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious here, you need to go into it knowing that you are not going to drink. If you’re undecided or playing it by ear or seeing how you feel, then I have news for you: you’re probably gonna drink. A maybe is nearly always a yes. We decide we’re going to drink long before we pick up the glass. Drinking is just the final step in a long line of other decisions. If you let that seed of doubt fester in your mind, you set yourself up for a major battle of will. All your focus is on whether to drink or not, which makes it harder to focus on strategies that help you stay sober.
Once you’ve made up your mind, start feeling really good about it. Removing alcohol from your life is a brave and amazing thing to do. It might feel hard now, but you are on the road to a much brighter and happier future. Be kind to yourself. Start visualising yourself as the sparkly, sober person who doesn’t need to consume a mind altering drug in order to have a good time. You’re smart enough to see through that illusion. Visualise yourself having a good time with friends and family, feeling relaxed and feeling good. Imagine yourself climbing in to bed sober and waking up feeling great the next day. Imagine all the extra Christmas cake you can eat!
If you’re seriously not going to drink this Christmas then you need to make it a priority in your life. This means that if you think it’ll be too hard to attend certain social events or family gatherings, then don’t go. Once you make alcohol free living a priority, there is actually very little you ‘have’ to do. In the long run, offending one or two people is better than risking your sobriety. There’s no shame in leaving early or staying at home. If you have people staying with you, carve out some space for yourself. Fake an urgent trip to the shops, go for a run or head off to make an imaginary phone call. Be selfish. Don’t be a people pleaser. And remember, act like a vegetarian. Just as some people choose not to eat meat, you are choosing not to drink. You are not obliged to engage in discussions about it or justify or explain your choice.
PLAN YOUR DRINKS
This is not the time to be making do with flat coke and lukewarm water! You should put as much effort into your non alcoholic drinks as you used to put into buying booze. Make sure your festive, non-alcoholic drinks are exciting, expensive and feel a bit special. Stock up on fresh juices, cordials and experiment with different mocktails. If you’re going to someone else’s house, take a bottle of something nice to drink with you, just as you would if you were drinking. Let your host know what it is you like. Don’t leave it to fate – be in charge of what you’re getting to drink.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
During the holidays, our normal routines tend to go out the window and it’s really easy to stop doing the things that keep you sober. Don’t let your self care slide; think about the three things that seem most important to you and make an effort to keep up with them. Maybe it’s reading sober blogs in the morning, having a particular drink close at hand or taking a long bath before bed. If it works, keep doing it. Make sure you stay hydrated. Keep in touch with your sober buddies. Remember to plan lots of treats – you totally deserve them. You need to reinforce all the good you’re doing by giving yourself a distinct and tangible reward. Decide now what it’s going to be and when you’ll have it.
And most importantly … remember that you are AMAZING!