The festive season is supposed to be ‘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 7th 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.
Here are 20 tips to help you survive the boozy festive 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. Create an empowering playlist
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.
Listen to your favourite songs and focus on what you’ll gain from showing up as your awesome, alcohol-free self. 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 – your decision not to drink is your decision, no one else’s. Click here for some ideas on how to answer the ‘why aren’t you drinking?’ question.
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. They’re really about 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 of year 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. The chances are, other people will appreciate having more choice.
6. Do your research
If you’re going out for a meal or drinks in a bar, check out their website before you go. Most places have a drinks menu online so you can see what AF offerings they have.
I find mocktail menus aren’t always that easy to spot in a busy bar (they tend to put the more expensive, alcoholic options at eye level) so it’s great to have this information in advance.
7. 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 change during the festive season, staying in contact with your sober world will help keep you focused and in the right mindset.
8. 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?
9. Don’t romanticise alcohol
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.
10. Look out for other non drinkers
Make a conscious effort to do this. Otherwise it’s very easy to talk yourself into believing that you’re the only non drinker on the planet (or at least in the room) and that just isn’t true.
I went to a party in a brewery the other week and even there, I wasn’t the only sober person! There will always be other people who aren’t drinking, even if it’s just because they’re driving.
11. Learn from the kids
Whenever I find myself getting socially anxious, or too stuck in my own head, I find it really helpful to observe how kids interact with one another.
Are they waiting to grab another beer before plucking up the courage to talk to the others? No way. They just get stuck in. We were all kids once, and it really helps to remember that.
12. Make sure you look great
Being alcohol free doesn’t mean it’s not worth making an effort. You aren’t less of a person because you’re sober. You have the same right to be there as everyone else.
So, buy something new to wear. Get your nails done and do your hair. If you look good on the outside, it will help you feel more confident on the inside.
13. Drive yourself
Not only is “I’m driving” an easy way of explaining why you’re not drinking, it’s totally brilliant when you can jump in your car and leave whenever you want.
Offer other people a lift there (and back) if you want to, but don’t feel obliged to stay until the bitter end, unless you’re having tons of fun. You came and now you’re going.
14. Always have a glass in your hand
I think that one reason we love drinking is because it gives us something to do with our hands. It doesn’t matter what’s in the glass, we just need something to hold.
Having a full glass is another great way of turning down any offers of alcoholic drinks. That way all you need to do is look at your glass and say, “No thanks, I’m good.”
15. Confide in someone
Don’t keep your sobriety a secret. When you share your goal with a friend or partner, it helps make it a bit more real, and you get some accountability.
Remember, you’re not asking for their opinion, just their support. If they can’t offer you this, consider looking elsewhere for help. You can find details of my online programme here.
16. Write down your wins
Everyday, write down one or two things that have gone well. What are you proud of? What are you pleased about? Give yourself the acknowledgement you deserve.
Put a reminder on your phone so that you’re prompted to do this every evening before bed. By the New Year, you’ll have a great list to look back on.
17. Make a list of alcohol free things you love about this time of year
I love the Christmas coffee in my local cafe, the pretty lights outside people’s homes, the smell of Christmas candles and the chance to catch up with friends. What do you love?
This is a great exercise to keep your head in the game and your focus in the right place. There’s so much more to the festive season than alcohol.
18. Understand that not everyone is going to ‘get’ it
Things would be so much easier if everyone was open minded and responded to our sobriety in exactly the right way, but life just isn’t like that.
Keep in mind that you’ve quit drinking for you and no one else. This means you don’t need the approval of those around you. You know you’re on the right path, and that’s all that matters.
19. 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?
20. 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 aren’t superwoman.
You deserve lots of sober treats and rewards, because having the courage to go against the grain is a big deal. Take extra good care of yourself – you’re awesome.
Now let me know…
What are the tips and tricks that get you through the festive season? What will you be focusing on over the coming weeks?
Leave me a note in the comments below – I know so many people head there for encouragement and support.
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