Kate's Blog

How to stay sober at Christmas

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.
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.
tree2-minGET POSITIVE!
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.
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.
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!

santa deer-2

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


32 Responses

  1. I love this post! I have now been sober for a month, and it’s been wonderful. Been to a couple of Christmas parties, and it has been OK, and the feeling afterwards is really great. Thanks for the blog posts. They do help! (Along with my enormous new collection of herbal teas…)

    1. Congratulations Liz, you’re doing so well! It’s great to hear about the christmas parties too … proof that getting sober doesn’t mean you have to stay in all the time! Happy Christmas.

  2. Nailed it! And just in time, another relatable/helpful post, Kate. Now I won’t feel so bad about taking time out for myself by going running, meditation, and/or reading when I visit my family next week over the holidays. Thank you, and again Happy (sober) Christmas, girl!

  3. Another great post! As for special drinks, I learned about cordials recently while reading here or somewhere else. I live in the States, so I have to get them all the way from the UK. But they’re worth every penny! It’s the same as buying a nice bottle of wine but lasts much longer. My favorite is Belvoir Farms Elderflower cordial mixed with Fever Tree Naturally Light Tonic Water and a generous squeeze of lemon, topped with a sprig of mint, and served in a cut-crystal cocktail glass. This drink has become a hit with my friends, even the ones who drink alcohol. It tastes great, has only about 40 calories, and I wake up feeling awesome!

    1. Hi Monica. Elderflower & tonic has always been a staple of mine during sober periods. I used to refer to it “poor man’s Gin & Tonic”. These days I am well on the road to permanent sobriety and regard it as “thinking person’s Gin & Tonic”! Another cordial available in the UK I like is Rochester non-alcoholic ginger wine, which Rochester aptly describes as “a non alcoholic Ginger wine with the kick of two very angry Mules!”. Perfect with lashings of tonic over ice, with an optional splash of blackcurrant cordial
      Having lived in the U.S. I know there are a few things commonly available in the UK not to be found on the supermarket shelves over there. However by way of compensation you have root beer and Hershey’s chocolate, great yuletide treats, at least for those who have acquired the taste!

    2. thanks for posting that Monica! I live in Canada and I also didn’t even know what cordials were haha. Currently on belvoir fruit farms site adding everything to my cart 🙂

  4. Thank you Kate for your continued tips and reminders. It can feel a bit like you are on your own and the odd one out for not drinking. I love reading other people’s comments too as it confirms I am not the only one who has had a problem with alcohol, but doing something about it.
    Happy Christmas and Happy New Year

    1. I know exactly what you mean. It’s not a very comfortable feeling, being the odd one out. The truth is that there are so many people out there, quietly struggling with this. But only a few people ever do something about it. So, hurrah for us!

  5. Great post Kate!
    This will be my first Christmas without wine! I just stopped drinking 8 days ago and it’s been a bit of a struggle. I’ve already started to prepare myself for Christmas. I just can’t wait to wakeup on the 26th without a hangover! Thanks again!

    1. Good luck Tracy, you can do it! These first few days and weeks are the hardest, but it gets so much easier. I think you will really enjoy a hangover free Christmas. Make sure you have lots of treats and fun things planned as a reward for Boxing Day – hope you have a fabulous time! x

      1. Thank you for this. I swear you have the best tips out there. You’re right, maybe does equal yes. I made that mistake and slipped after 4 months of sobriety. Back on day 2 and revisiting many of your posts. A very safe and healthy holiday to all.

        1. Well done on picking yourself back up and trying again – that’s the most important thing. If you can do 4 months once, you can do it again! Good luck – and have a happy Christmas. K

    2. Same here started the battle dec 20th – every evening the battle starts and I tell my self every evening – not today … The trouble and the good thing is I have been clean and sober 2 months and then go back to the booze – but this time I think I am ready to walk away for good ! There seems to be no moderation one can stick to its either you drink to fall off a cliff or nothing at all for a few weeks and sometimes a few months but when you get back to it it’s worse than before . I used to be a smoker 30 a day at one time quit aug 20th 2001 – I believe if you can quite one why not the other as well – there’s a lot of social pressure not to quite though one feels one will be left friendless ….

  6. Starting over after a 3 year relapse. I’ve struggled the last year vacillating between trying to moderate and not drinking. I know for myself that I cannot moderate – today is day 2 and I am grateful to have found your blog! Merry Christmas, Stephanie K

    1. Hi Stephanie. I think everyone tries moderating at some point. But if you know it’s not working out, then stopping altogether can often be easier in the long run. Good luck and Merry Christmas!

      1. Not drinking is SO much easier than trying to only drink “a little.” Zero is so much clearer. Maybe is always a yes. On Day 4 after forgetting that even if I can manage moderation here and there, it is so much work.

    2. Stephanie K on 15th December 2015 you have the gift of knowing your self so well that you know you can not conseme alcohol. You can do a sober Christmas Easily stay strong 🙂

    3. I’m just starting again too. Gave up drinking for about two years when I was 20 (I know that sounds young but I needed to do it I really did). Have been drinking again for another 2 years because I thought I had it sorted and under control. I don’t. So I’m beginning again. Not even been a week yet and not sure how I feel about Christmas. Cried in Morrisons selecting my non alcoholic drinks for the holidays and ignoring the wine aisle! Great to read this though and your comment too Stephanie, reminds me I’m not the only one!

  7. Great post! I stumbled on your site and have really enjoyed reading. I am 3 years sober and the holidays always seem to be more challenging. Thank you for the encouragement and helping me feel like I am not the only one not drinking!

  8. Great post! I will also be going into my first wine-free Christmas. I’m 16 days sober and I agree that in a lot of ways it’s just easier to cut it out versus trying to moderate. For years I thought – if I can just drink and stop before I’ve had enough to get a hangover, I’ll be golden. Well, where’s the fun in that…It’s either drink to get drunk or let my brain rewire itself so I can experience peace and joy with regular life things, which is a healthier, less depressing solution. I look at it as an experiment and figure I need a few solid months under my belt to start to feel a lifestyle shift as I’ve been using alcohol for a long time to have fun, feel calm, relieve boredom, enjoy people, you name it! Here’s hoping I can re-learn to experience those things in other ways…

  9. Well, I got a little cocky. Had 8 days and thought by Christmas it would not be an issue. It was my birthday and I actually received wine as gifts. I hide it away under a cabinet and out of sight. I don’t have to tell any of you how that ended. The only thing I know for sure is that if I had 8 days, I can have it again. I don’t need birthdays and Christmas to be an excuse. I have to be more prepared for that little voice that starts with a whisper.

  10. Wow, I’ve been looking for a little help on how to reduce my alcohol consumption, but it just dawned on me – when I quit smoking in 1985 or so, I could never be just an occasional smoker – I had to quit. And quit it did, never went back to it.
    But here in in 2015, 30 years later, I realize what a problem alcohol has become for me. Maybe I can’t just reduce, maybe I have to actually give it up, and maybe, just maybe I am supposed to give it up before things get really bad.
    But I’m scared. What if it ends my relationship with my husband. Or maybe I should look at this the other way and maybe it will create a better relationship with my husband.

  11. Thanks for the fantastic tips Kate. I am do glad to have found this site. Am on day 82 alcohol free and feel so much better physically and emotionally. I was dithering about having some bubbles over Christmas but I don’t want to jeopardise my achievement as I don’t think I can moderate. My main challenge is that my partner who also went A/F from 1st Oct has now re-started and believes it possible to moderate! am 99% sure it won’t be and this will make problems between us. Am really disappointed as I felt our relationship was so healthy sober! any tips on accepting my partner’s in a different place to me?

  12. Well I deserve a cold one .Yes I’ve done my part ‘ tree is up , house is decorated, presents all bought wrapped under the tree, Christmas baking, cookies ‘meat pies ‘and delicious deserts ready for family to enjoy. Family will not be home with all the grandkids until tomorrow I have the rest of to-day a nice fire on and cold beer and wine in the garage and egg nog and rum on Ice. Only one problem I quit drinking four months ago after many years of abusing alcohol .Retired now and trying to be the person that is inside me screaming to get out . If I can get through this Christmas sober anyone can.

  13. Sitting in bed with a cupola and NO HANGOVER I had to write to thank you for this post which has really helped me over Christmas, especially the first tip ‘Decide not to drink’.
    I had my last drink on 30th Sept and initially was planning to do Dry October. But having discovered how much better my life works without a alcohol, I carried on and am now on Day 87 alcohol-free. So many ‘firsts’ in those 11 weeks! Including Christmas and the whole month of celebrations which preceded it. New Year next and I feel so much more confident than I did a month ago in the approach to Christmas.
    This site, and others, have been a lifeline. I started visiting them in September as I prepared for Dry October. So much common sense and support.
    I have replaced alcohol with a huge range of non-alcoholic drinks, including de-alcoholised wine from the Alcohol Free Shop. They do a mail-order service but if you are in the North West you can visit the store (in N Manchester) and taste any of their drinks before buying. I know it doesn’t work for lots of people to have de-alcoholised drinks but it does for me and I have had lots of the rose fizz over Christmas and felt very chilled about not drinking.
    Who was who said ‘the evenings may be hard but the mornings never are’?
    Anyway no more now. I just wanted to say thank you for helping me and happy festivities to all.

  14. 2 months I was leading up to xmas. So true about the firm decision. Mine wasn’t, and hey ho, back to day 3 on 3rd of Jan. I function so much better without it. Thanks for your post.

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