How To Survive The Boozy Festive Season

How To Survive The Boozy Festive Season

As the song goes, it’s ‘the most wonderful time of the year’… but it’s also the booziest.

There are parties to navigate, family gatherings and endless occasions where we’re encouraged to ‘celebrate’ with everyone’s favourite drug – alcohol.

This will be my 6th sober Christmas and I’m really looking forward to it.

I consider sobriety to be a lifestyle upgrade – I don’t want hangovers spoiling my fun (or making this hectic time of year any harder than it already is!)

But I haven’t always felt this confident.

I know December can be a challenging month if you’ve recently quit drinking or you’re trying to drink less, so I wanted to share some tips on how to navigate the silly season, sober 🙂

 

1) Decide you’re not going to drink

I know this sounds so obvious, but seriously – don’t just ‘wait and see’ how you feel. A ‘maybe’ nearly always ends up being a yes (you just do a lot of dithering first!)

Before each event, decide in advance whether you’re going to drink or not. Once the decision is made, move on. You’ve done the thinking bit – now it’s time to take action.

 

2) Be positive

Stamp out any thoughts about being a sober loser or missing out. If you keep telling yourself that you’re going to be bored because you’re AF, then guess what? That probably will happen.

Focus on everything you have to gain from showing up as your awesome, alcohol-free self. And think about how great you’ll feel afterwards – you’ll be so proud.

 

3) Act like a non smoker

What I mean by this is own your sobriety. There’s no need to go around apologising for not drinking. (Would you apologise for not smoking? Or not eating meat? I don’t think so.)

You don’t owe anyone an explanation, but you might want to prepare a response incase the ‘why aren’t you drinking’ question comes up. Click here for a few ideas.

 

4) Get clear on what each event is about

In this boozy world of ours, it’s easy to forget that parties are about more than drinking. What they’re really about are humans coming together to connect, socialise and have fun.

Your Christmas meal is about spending time with family. And that work party is about celebrating with colleagues (people who, FYI, you spend most of your time with sober!)

 

5) Plan your drinks

This isn’t the time to be making do with any old drink or leaving things to chance. You deserve to celebrate with something special too! Take control of your drinks and plan ahead.

If you’re going to a party, offer to supply the alcohol free drinks. You’ll be amazed how quickly they disappear – other people will appreciate having some non-boozy options.

 

6) Keep doing the basics

What’s helped you get this far? Maybe there’s a special mocktail you rely on at wine o’clock, a blog you love or a podcast you listen to on your way to work. Keep these habits going.

Whilst your regular routine is likely to be disrupted over Christmas, staying in contact with your sober world will help keep you focused and in the right mindset.

 

7) Give yourself permission to say no

When you’re truly prioritising your sobriety, there’s nothing that you really ‘have’ to do. You CAN leave early, you can stay at home and you can just say no.

A few hurt feelings are an acceptable price to pay if it keeps you alcohol free. Whenever you feel you ‘have’ to do something, ask yourself – will this matter a month from now, or a year from now?

 

8) Don’t give alcohol all the power

It’s not what’s in your glass that dictates the success of an evening – it’s the mood you’re in before you go, the people you’re with, the atmosphere, the music and 101 other things!

Drinking at a bad party just means you’re drunk at a bad party. Booze isn’t what makes the festive season special. All it can do is help you numb out from your one and only life.

 

9) Keep things in perspective

In a few short weeks, this will all be over. In many ways, the festive season is just like any other time of year. There are good bits, bad bits and bits that are just ok. 

If this is your first sober Christmas, take some time out to think about how you want to feel by the time we hit the New Year. You haven’t come this far to only come this far – right?

 

10) Treat yourself

I say this to my students all the time – just because you’re sober, it doesn’t mean you need to be ‘on’ 24/7. Don’t skip the downtime you’d get if you were drinking. You’re not superwoman!

You deserve lots of sober treats and rewards, because having the courage to go against the grain is something that should be celebrated. Take extra good care of yourself – you’re awesome 🙂

 

Let me know…

What are the tips and tricks that get you through this crazy, boozy time of year? What will you be focusing on over the coming weeks? Leave me a note in the comments – I know so many people head there for encouragement and support.

 

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53 Comments

  1. Kate this will be my first alcohol-free Xmas coming up since I did your fab course in April! I’m a bit nervous but im excited too – last year was such a disaster (was hungover most of Dec) and i’m looking forward to doing things differently this year! Whenever I feel worried or doubtful I think about my two daughters who LOVE me being AF. They’ve got their mummy back and that’s the best Xmas present for all of us.

    Reply
    • I think you’re going to have an amazing time Julie! It’s normal to be a bit nervous ahead of your first AF Christmas, but I know you’ll be fine – this is just another sober first to get done and dusted. I’m excited to hear how it goes! 🙂

      Reply
    • Wish I would of read my email before I went out last night to a Christmas party:( I was doing great, then towards the end , ended up having drinks, and everyone (we)took off to a bar… and it went down hill from there. Unfortunately im the type that blacks out, and have to figure out what I said, did I offend anyone etc..I’m so disappointed in myself, I can’t believe I’m struggling with this. But I have to keep my head up and keep trying!

      Reply
  2. Winter spice ribena- festive smell and taste and only at this time of year. Choose a pub drink you like – slimline tonic with lime and ice? – and only drink it when you’re out so it’s special. Drive, offer lifts but do not feel obliged to stay to the bitter, boozy ,boring end . If you’re leaving at 11- go . Have your treats ready – mine centres on a pile of library requests and book buys that I’ve been looking forward to, and an open turf fire for downtime. Focus on events where there’s something to do- carol singing ,concert , panto,long winter walk, civic events, helping a charity – for feel good factor . Don’t over compensate by being the Good Samaritan who tracks lost phones, coats, keys , reputations for your nearest and dearest , who does the morning after food and fizzy water run, the clean up- sorry if that sounds harsh but I did that on my first sober holiday and came home feeling hard done by! Not good. And choose a bonus mini goal – if weight isn’t an issue it could be special food treats or creamy mocktails; if you usually emerge half a stone heavier, save those booze calories towards your summer body and feel good on Jan 1 when all around you are pledging abstention, diet and gym. In the most miserable, coldest, germ laden, skint time of the year . Yeah .

    Reply
    • How have I missed winter spice ribena? I will have to check this out! Thanks for these great tips Felicity 🙂

      Reply
  3. Thanks for keeping in touch, much appreciated

    Reply
    • No problem – have a great Christmas Lyn! 🙂

      Reply
      • I am just on day 9, as a “sugar free soberista”, giving up both sugar and alcohol for 75 days and see where I want to go after that. Love reading this blog! Keep’em coming. Thanks

        Reply
  4. Those are great reminders, thanks!

    Reply
    • Happy holidays Diana! 🙂

      Reply
  5. This will be my first AF Xmas in a very long time. I am AF day 27 and it has been easier day after day. I’m very interested in mocktail recommendations, please write them below? If I make a soda water with lime so far it reminds me too much of my past drink at the bars. I think I need to branch out and try a whole new AF concoction. To feel excited and good about being AF, I drink sparkling water 24/7 and look forward to them daily. Thanksgiving went better than I hoped, and mostly I was tired earlier in the evening and acknowledged this. I stayed up with the party people however and drank all my ginger ale, kombucha and soda waters. I’m don’t have a big sweet tooth but I’ve been trying to branch out since becoming AF. It is nice to have a treat. In the next couple of weeks, my goals will be to go out more and see how it goes ordering AF with friends I haven’t shared this new change with. Wish me luck!

    Reply
    • Hi Christine I found a great option for nights out lime and mint cooler,the cordial is quite strong but that packs a punch and feels like you are not just having your normal af drink. Gets my vote x

      Reply
      • Thank you for the recommendation!

        Reply
  6. 3 days today I’m so tierd I’d drinking but keep going back to it ,sneaking vodka at night,I’m from England but live in St. Louis,my Friend told me about Kate ,sober living I’ve signed up for class email and blogs helping a lot thankyou Kate

    Reply
    • Congratulations on your 3 days Joanne! The first few days are some of the hardest, so take it easy and get plenty of rest 🙂

      Reply
  7. AF will be a Christmas gift to myself.

    Reply
    • Yes! What a perfect Christmas present 🙂

      Reply
    • Kizzy, that’s awesome! Congratulations on your new sobriety!

      Reply
  8. This will be my first AF Christmas. I am 34 days AF. I have just been away for a weekend with a group of girlfriends and whilst the others were drinking I kept to my fever tree elderflower tonic. I had told myself beforehand that I would have a great time and that it wouldn’t be dull and I wouldn’t be miserable without alcohol and it was true, I had the best time ever. I am looking forward to not drinking this Christmas instead focussing on spending quality time with family and friends, eating delicious food and feeling proud that I’ve given myself the best Christmas gift.

    Reply
    • Well done Rachel, that’s brilliant! I’m so pleased it went well – you totally had the right attitude. Many congratulations on your 34 days 🙂

      Reply
  9. I could really do with some tips on how to stop drinking at home – it’s the whole Friday night sitting in my pj’s thing I find hard tips welcome x

    Reply
    • Hi Kim, the best thing to do is to set aside some time to have a good read through my blog – I’ve got tons and tons of tips and tricks in my blog archives. Have a good look through them and make sure you download my Wine O’Clock Survival Guide too. (Here’s the link: https://thesoberschool.com/wineoclock)
      Of course, there is a limit to the amount of help and support I can offer in a short and snappy weekly blog. If you need any more help to stop drinking (and make it stick!) please do check out my online course. That’s where we can help you make some amazing changes! Here’s some more info about the class: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

      Reply
  10. This will be my second AF Christmas. Last year I prepared by stocking up on AF beer and bubbly, I didn’t miss out on bucks fizz with Xmas brekkie. I also preprepared my AF mojito mix and sipped on mock tails throughput the day. It was great not being hungover and I know this year will be a doddle. Xs

    Reply
    • Sounds like the perfect day! 🙂

      Reply
  11. Here are some things which work for me…

    1. If I do have to go to a party, I pick up a glass and make sure it has soda water, or sparkly water in it. Add a slice of lemon or lime and ice and who knows what you are drinking? And I have something to hold on to. And it makes me realise what a prop alcohol often is. And once the party ‘gets going’ I slip away. No one notices.

    2. Do NOT feel obligated to go to all the office parties. There are at least four where I work. I don’t plan to go to any of them. I just vaguely say, ‘oh, what a shame, I can’t make that date’. It’s my life and I don’t need to explain it to other people!

    3. I have been using a weekly list for a few weeks now. Each week I make a note of how many units of alcohol I drink and don’t drink. It is getting less, and less and less. BE HONEST! I started out in the summer and was regularly recording 100 units plus per week.

    That made me think.

    Actually, if you’re drinking that much, avoiding 2 – 3 bottles of wine a week makes quite a difference. The last week I drank alcohol it was 10 units – and that was some weeks ago. It is not always easy, but I really like those weeks where there is a big zero in the ‘units drank column’ and they are becoming more and more frequent.

    4. Restructure how you live. When you think about it you realise how much alcohol has become woven into the fabric of your life. That fabric needs to be unpicked. It really helped me to have no alcohol in the house. And now I think of my house as AF – and that really helps me being AF. Me and the house like this state!

    5. It’s hard! Don’t think you just need ‘will power’ or ‘avoid temptation’. See 4 above. Restructure. I go shopping early in the day and that makes it much easier to avoid buying alcohol. I make myself busy on a Sunday, and before you know it, all the shops are more or less shut. I meet friends in different places and ways. Make friends with people who don’t drink. Ditch the ones who don’t help you.

    6. Don’t keep thinking about not drinking. Find other things to think about!

    Reply
    • Thanks Danni, there are some great tips here. Keep going with those alcohol-free days – they are the best 🙂

      Reply
  12. Thank you Kate. You are the best. Love your enthusiasm, warm spirit, and complete honesty. This will be my first AF Christmas. I have been sober 10 months Dec. 15. Wine thoughts still creep in but leave just as fast. I feel good and just free from obsession and that whole control that alcohol had on me. I think I am living a normal life now and it feels awesome. I sleep well, eat well, no anxiety, worry, or anger. No feeling of regret or embarrassed of myself. I notice more people not drinking than drinking anymore. I am in a very good place and Christmas won’t change that. Thank you

    Reply
    • You certainly sound as if you’re in a great place Liz! Congratulations on your 10 months – I hope you have a wonderful AF Christmas! 🙂

      Reply
  13. I have been battling this decision for so long, do I give up alcohol for good. I reason with myself “I don’t have a problem, I only have a glass in the evening. Sometimes two” but after 7 days without a break, these glasses all add up, and that day arrives when I feel I can cope with life.
    I’ve had a one way relationship with alcohol for 20years, and I’ve finally realised, “alcohol you are not my friend”.
    I’ve avoided the first party of the Christmas season tonight. So here I am, with a refreshing sparkling water, reading some inspiring stories and tips.
    I’m so glad I’ve found this blog, and I’m looking forward to this next chapter

    Reply
    • Good luck Louise, I was skeptical at first myself but I read one of Kate’s blogs every night that I usually drank and found something useful out of each one. It empowered me to just get through the evening time and by morning time I was more confident and not-hungover. It gets better, hang in there and stay positive! Happy AF holidays!

      Reply
    • I think lots of people here are in a similar position Louise. I wrote a blog a little while ago about what to do if you’re not sure your drinking is ‘bad enough’ – you might find it helpful: https://thesoberschool.com/good-enough/

      Reply
    • Hi,

      I wrote out arukoru no wa watashi no tekidaerimasu…alcohol is my enemy… in Japanese and put it on my wall in May. I fell for alcohol again briefly after and felt bad then devoted again in June 18 and sober since.

      Reply
  14. Kate, thanks for this email. Alcohol seems to be lurking around always just over my shoulder this time of year. My eye is on the prize. I will be at one hundred days on New Years Day. So don’t want to mess this up. I am just going to carry on daily knowing I have made a commitment to a new life alcohol free and it will be fine. Have a happy holiday everyone. Good Luck!

    Reply
    • 100 days on New Years Day… I think that’s a sign! What a great way to celebrate the start of 2019. I look forward to seeing you hit 100 days – and many more. You’ve got this Cate 🙂

      Reply
  15. I find that alcohol free wine and beer helps tremendously. I actually prefer them now. The whites seem better than the reds in terms of wine. My favourites are Eden Vale Chardonnay and Eden Vale sparkling Brut Cuvee. I also love Hahn’s Ultra beer.

    Reply
    • AF versions of your favourite drinks can certainly be a helpful addition to your sober toolbox! Thanks for these recommendations Clair.

      Reply
  16. Hi Kate,

    I have been lurking for 9 days, and I have been AF for 8 days. This will be my first AF Christmas in 28 years when I was pregnant with my first child. You have helped me so much, thank you! I have signed up for your next class and can’t wait. I am from the Pacific Northwest where we are known for our micro brews and our wine. Your survival guide has been a lifesaver! Merry Christmas

    Reply
    • Thanks Karaleigh! Many congratulations on your 8 days – you’re off to a brilliant start. Keep going, it will all be worth it! 🙂

      Reply
  17. I’ve just come back from my first AF all inclusive trip where I celebrated 90 days; I’m feeling so refreshed and proud and counting on using the momentum to help keep me focused through the holidays! I love your blogs and Will be rereading this one again to sink in 🙂

    Reply
  18. It will be my first AF Christmas, I am looking forward to it and pray i survive.

    Reply
  19. Battled this poison on and off for years, went months without than boom back down that shop!! So now only on day 2 but I will take each day as it comes. It doesn’t help that social and courts are involved and my kids are living with my sister, got nothing more to lose but so much to gain but it’s like I go back time and time again because I need to be punished

    Reply
  20. If anything I find Christmas easy, as I drive . And I don’t want my small grandchildren to see me drunkish. I find the days before and after special days very hard. Alcohol is a drug and I hate how it makes me feel, but every now and then it doesn’t stop me having a drink. I have made a pledge that I have had it wi5 alcohol and will never partake again.

    Reply
    • Thats great Annette. Lets make this work.

      Reply
  21. Thanks so much for your article! YES, for me, I’ve found that #1 is my best tactic. DECIDE now that no matter what, YOU SIMPLY DON’T DRINK! The merry-go-round monkey brain thoughts just disappear then. Poof! It’s a beautiful thing.

    Reply
  22. Wonderful article. Thank you!

    Reply
  23. Very nice. Thank you!

    Reply
  24. Happy Holidays everyone. I’m nine nights AF and the improvements are remarkable already! Thank you so much for creating such a great place for women to work on themselves. For a AF special tasting beverage I have just tried a club soda, splash of lemonade and drizzle of ginger syrup. It’s crisp, tangy and spicy all at the same time. Best of luck to all the ladies doing their best!

    Reply
  25. Quite honestly, I just avoid it. This is my first Christmas sober and I will be spending it with my husband who is also sober and his family who does drink but it’s not a booze fest. We will be going to my family’s Christmas in January, and to avoid the booze fest that will be, we plan on renting a hotel room and have already let my mom know that we will be leaving her house around 6:00.

    I think ultimately it all comes down to standing your ground. Everytime I talk to my mom I have to hear about how upset she is we are leaving soooo early, but I know if we don’t, we both run the risk of relapsing and that’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

    Reply
  26. Hi Kate, I signed up for the Sober School in January – having heard very positive things about your previous one – so I’m hoping to hear from you soon re: course admission? Drinkswise, I love soda with fresh lime, and Mexican Ginger and Lime with sparkling water. Fevertree tonics are also a good AF alternative. xx

    Reply
    • Hi Siobhan, I’ll be sending out some information about the course, with details of how to register, during the first week of January. I look forward to working with you! Have a good Christmas 🙂

      Reply
  27. Phew – I thought I’d missed it. Thank you!

    Reply
  28. Went to my first holiday party for the season.
    I am 14 days AF and didn’t drink any alcohol at the party
    Problem was the bar was very extensive but saw no AF beverages so I didn’t have anything until coffee was served . I was embarrassed to ask for a soda or water so I did without . I didn’t want to draw attention to my not wanting to drink.
    The hostess offered me his famous whiskey punch which I love but I just said I can’t drink cause I am caring for my sick mother which was true but I never thought to ask for glass of ice water .
    I need to find away not to be embarrassed to ask for AF beverage if non are served
    Thanks
    Katie

    Reply
  29. This is not my first sober Christmas, but this will be the first year I will be out of the closet and ‘owning it’. I normally say things like ‘I have to work early tomorrow’ or even something ridiculous like ‘I’m on antibiotics.’

    To wrap up 2018, I am going to come out of the sober closet and say ‘I don’t drink.’ at every Christmas party I go to. If the club soda in my glass is unsettling to anyone,they are just going to have to get over it. I am curious to see if I will experience a positive new shift in my sobriety from this. I feel like I have been in hiding for a few years now and have been getting pretty tired of it.

    And best of all- no hangovers ruining Christmas and New Years Day!

    Reply

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