If you’re newly sober – or trying to be – then the chances are, you find this time of year a bit stressful. There are parties to navigate, family pressures to deal with and lots of boozy marketing messages all over the place. When you’re one of the few people not drinking, it’s easy to feel left out or as if you’re not celebrating ‘properly’.
At least, that’s how it seems at first.
This will be my fourth sober Christmas and I’m really looking forward to it. As the years go on, I become more and more convinced that alcohol-free is actually the best way to survive this slightly mad time of year!
Of course, it’s taken a bit of time and practice to get to this point. Along the way, I’ve picked up some tips and techniques that definitely make everything feel a little bit easier. Here are my top 10 tips:
1 – Decide you are not going to drink.
Seriously. There is no point waiting to see how you feel. You need to make sobriety a priority and go into this knowing that you aren’t going to drink. A ‘maybe’ or a ‘I’ll decide when I get there…’ nearly always ends badly.
2 – Force yourself to be positive.
Sobriety is a mind game as much as anything else. Once you’ve decided to go for it, start feeling really good about it. You’re doing something really amazing right now! Stamp out any thoughts about being a sober loser or missing out. Alcohol does not have magic properties. It cannot transform a bad party into a good one. This stuff might feel hard right now, but you’re headed towards a much brighter, happier future.
3 – Prepare a response.
Some people won’t notice that you’re not drinking, but it’s worth preparing a response for those who do ask about it. I think shorter answers are the best. I’m driving / I’m tired / I’m not feeling well are all good explanations. Respond confidently and then move the conversation on.
4 – Act like a vegetarian.
Not drinking is a bit like deciding not to smoke or eat meat. It’s not really that big a deal. Keep some perspective and remember that this is your decision. No one else’s. Anyone who tries to convince you that being sober at Christmas is a crime needs to get out more.
5 – Plan your drinks.
Nothing will make you feel more left out and self conscious than having to sip a glass of lukewarm water out of a plastic tumbler, because no one considered the alcohol-free options. You deserve to have nice drinks too. If you’re going to someone else’s house, take something with you – just like you would if you were on the booze. Stay in control of this.
6 – Keep doing what works.
What’s been working for you so far? What are the things that help you stay on track, just as you’re about to lose it? Our daily routines tend to go out the window at this time of year and it’s easy to get run down. Make sure you keep in touch with your sober buddies. Don’t let your self care slide; be selfish and make time to do the things that keep you sane.
7 – Fake it till you make it.
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 inside. Smile and force yourself to make an effort. Act like you’re having a fabulous time and who knows – it might just happen!
8 – Always have an escape plan.
It’s fine to leave a party early. You came and now you’re going. It’s no big deal. Make sure you have a way of getting home (or someone who understands that you might want to exit early). If you’re the host, make sure you can escape for a break when you need it. Go to another room / go out for a walk / make a phone call. Do what you need to do and don’t feel bad about it.
9 – Spare a thought for everyone else.
Most of us present a very filtered, polished version of ourselves to the outside world, particularly on social media. When we’re constantly seeing other people’s highlight reels, it’s easy to forget that everyone has their own stuff going on. But honestly, they do. Take a good look round and imagine what’s really going on for your friends, family and work colleagues. It helps you get some perspective.
10 – Ask yourself, ‘how would alcohol change this situation?’
This is a great question to keep coming back to. Deep down, you know that drinking changes NOTHING. Alcohol is just a liquid toxin – the very best it can offer is a distraction. When you sober up, those same problems will still be there (and you will feel awful). Whilst it might be tempting to numb out, in the long run you’ll be worse off for it. Trust me when I say that sobriety will give you the best chance of creating a festive season you genuinely love!
And now I’d love to hear from you…
What are your tips for surviving the festive season in early sobriety? I know you will have lots of advice and ideas to share too!
Have a great week,