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,
I have remained sober for 6 weeks today, and I’m feeling uber proud. I had to endure my work christmas do on Friday night which was both frustrating and insightful. It was held at a busy comedy club and there must have been 300 people there on their work dos too. I can honestly say that most people were ridiculously drunk (probably started early in the office) by 7pm – to the point of slurring, heckling and staggering around. By the time the comedians came on they were either talking over them, or laughing so raucously at literally anything they said that it became slightly embarrassing. I had about 30 minutes of nice and easy conversation with my colleagues (mainly about why I wasn’t drinking) before I saw how distracted they suddenly became; mid scentence as the wine was proffered down the table. I looked around and honestly thought that I didn’t want to behave or look like the people around me ever again. I craved alcohol badly though – but only to make this rubbish night more manageable! But I resisted. I really just wanted to go home to my christmas tree, cosy fire, sober husband and pjs. It was almost like people were tripping or on some sort of drug – eyes rolling! I had to put up with all the well itentioned comments of: ‘It’s Christmas – you can drink for just one night surely?’ or ‘But you’re so much fun when you’ve had a drink – you don’t have a problem’ etc. But they didn’t see me the next morning when I’d have blacked out, fallen over and woken covered in bruises – not cool. Anyway – I had a friend there who wanted a lift home, and a pregnant friend in the same boat, so we snuck out at 11. Part of me felt that I had missed out when I saw the group pics on facebooks the next day – without me in them, but I also had a wnderful morning, hangover free with my family where we enjoyed a delighfully sunny Saturday. I’m looking forward to Christmas day now. I’m going to focus on my children and the lovely food we are planning to make. Plus I may even take a dip in the sea (a well known madness in Brighton)Something a bit different!! Merry Christmas to you all! xx xx xx
Well done Bryony, I don’t even know you but I’m really proud of you for resisting because I know how hard it is. 3.5 years into sobriety and that lovely smug hangover free Sunday feeling still goes strong believe me. Keep it up x
I am over 6 months sober and I am struggling a bit with the holidays. I’m having trouble sleeping and super stressed. I think I am trying to make this year so perfect for my kids and family that I am wearing myself out. I am around alcohol everyday because I own a bar. I have no desire to drink but just dealing with feelings that are very uncomfortable.
I’m certainly no expert, but I really struggle with negative feelings and thoughts. I am finding exercise to be a great help – although it sound like with a bar and a family to look after your time may be short. Find a great book to read to make sure you’re really tired before bed, and hot baths are working for me to aid my sleep. There is a great meditation app called Headspace too which just has short 10 min meditations to do to centre your thoughts in the morning. The guy who does it has a really calming voice, and the first ten sessions are free! You will make things perfect for your family as you are going to be present and sober for them – thats all kids really want anyway! Happy holidays, breathe and good luck! x x
This was literally my Friday night too! Work do, all completely smashed and I couldn’t stand it. I stated for two hours then just slipped away only saying goodbye to closest friends. Went home to sober hubby and open fire and cuppa. I totally know exactly what kind of a night you would have had. Glad we are all in the same boat. X
Hi bryony i loved your reply. Iv even screenshotted some of it for my own Christmas party inspiration. I really want to get out of the habit of getting so drunk and spending 3 days being depressed about it. I’m in Brighton too! Maybe we could go for a sober drink one time. Xx
Ahh- thanks Danielle!! I think Brighton is a really hard place to be as a sober person- it’s literally swimming on a sea of booze! I too am so fed up of the quantity I was able to put away without being sick or passing out! The cringe factor the next day and the fear that someone may have seen you- arrrrgh! No more for us!! I’d love to hear how you do through this festive period- feel free to get in touch through Facebook (Bryony Dunseith) xxx
Sounds good, loads more wholesome than the boozy bash. I had a works christmas do, i drove, mainly to save cash. I had a blast. Danced all night and managed my sons’ early morning birthday party, driving. Feels great doesnt it.
I just did a quick Google to get some help and have found this really encouraging. I haven’t had a drink in 10 days which sounds like baby steps but then I thought I never gone more than 2 days without alcohol in 30 years and that sounded horrendous! I need help. This is the demon I need to slay. Christmas will be a challenge with alcohol everywhere I turn but I must just say NO and get used to it, you guys have being continually saying NO for years. I hope I can I hope I can be a winnee
Point 10 is the question I’m going to keep asking myself while on my Christmas celebrations. I think that’s what it has taken me time to realise – sometimes you are only drinking to distract you for the fact that your not actually having fun. From now on it’s sober fun all the way!! xx
Just thank you. Thanks to Kate and to the commenters. Sober Three weeks this coming Thursday. I just keep remembering my last experience being so drunk puking beside my bed, and because of bladder issues after childbirth, peeing as well. realizing I had become my ex husband, whom I despised for his drucken behaviour. With the last few brain cells that were working, I thought, is this who I am, who I want to be? This after a night of 26 oz of vodka, drank all by lonesome, trying to drink away feelings of loneliness and all other feelings.
Who’s more lonesome, than a wife and mother puking in the night beside her bed, too drunk, to even make it to the garbage can. And peeing on the floor. Enough, just enough was my last thought before passing out.
I too have puked up in bed where Im in a drunken coma. It was so scary to think the last image of me to my partner and children could of been me dead from choking on my own sick. It’s a scary thought and one I’m not going to allow to happen again. Xx
Well done to all the people on this journey! I’m doing ok – quit end of August and had one bad week in September where I thought I could have one glass and ended up drinking the whole bottle (on two separate nights). Thanks for the great blog and positive thoughts. My question is this- how to deal with so much alcohol in the house? My husband only drinks beer so that’s ok as I don’t like it but he’s stocking up for Christmas when his family come down and getting wine, cider, port and whisky… I used to drink to ‘help’ manage stressful situations. I feel like this is the ultimate test: inlaws staying + lots of booze in cupboard = me drinking. Help!! Xxx
Beany, just a few thoughts: does your husband understand how important this is to you? Draw up strategies together. White lies if necessary. Refuse to discuss it; that’s for later. If you feel stress driving you to the bottle, could your husband do barman? You’re sober, you’re worth a lot, don’t be a doormat or slave to drunken demands. Take time out, go to bed early with a book or film,treat yourself in other ways. Christmas isnt about tolerating stressful people.And next year make sure you and your husband plan some celebrations for yourselves too.
Thanks Felicity. Wise words! I think part of the issue is that my husband doesn’t know to what extent I relied on wine to get me through stuff in the past. He is supportive of me but doesn’t know that I am taking this being sober very seriously – so I probably should talk with him before his parents arrive eh?! Thanks xxx
I appreciate the tips
I’ve been sober 19 weeks and got through our 24th November Thanksgiving feast mostly unscathed (didn’t drink nor did I want to-was a revelation to realize just how many of my family didn’t imbibe!)
I’ve decided to volunteer at our local homeless shelter for the Christmas meals -I feel I need to get out of my own way while I’m moving through this sobriety and the best way I can think of is to focus in on someone else’s hardship-
I’m not qualified to give advice but I will say this:
You’re stronger than you think you are and sometimes I find that action comes before motivation-
Good luck to everyone ☺️
Hi – I think voluteering is a great idea as it takes the focus off drinking for the holiday season (as it has been for many a year) and onto giving and caring – what it should be about. I contacted Age UK today to see about becoming a companion for a lonely older person within my community – applying for it now.
I have also been surprised by the amount of people who don’t drink – now that I am ut and about on a Sat and Sun morning or at the gym, you realise there are lots of people who don’t have hangovers and look to make the most of their day and their health. You’re right – we are all stronger than we think, and whilst the cravings are strong, they do pass!!! x x x
Fantastic idea Bryony ☺️
Fewer people drink. Fact, I had a surprise night out last week and found myself and OH at a table with 8 people i really didnt know . Two were lifelong abstainers; two had given up (including me); two were driving; and a seventh chose not to drink because of a sports event the next morning. The conversation was good, and I left feeling I’d made positive new acquaintances. The other three guests all chose to ‘let their hair down,’ ‘enjoy the season,’ etc and by the time we left- at the usual 11pm ish- always leave before the birdie song is my rule- were in their own little group, not engaging at all, focussing the conversation on-drink. I’d had an unplanned and lovely time and enjoyed the next day. Years in, the freedom of not feeling ill, guilty or The Fear is still a joy. Stick it out your first Christmas season and take great pride in starting 2017 without any of the aforementioned and with positive plans rather than negative resolutions- my lists always began with ‘give up drink.’
I haven’t managed to give up completely yet but I have reduced my drinking by about 80%. I love being hangover free and feeling clearer in my head. If anything the festive season makes it easier as watching other people and hearing their drinking stories makes me feel stronger and more resolute to stop. My husband is supporting me 100% and I am confident in my choices.
I am actually a vegan. I’ve told myself that if I can give up animal products I can also give up alcohol. Of course alcohol is adictive, unlike meat, but maybe I can use the same motivation. Also, my veganism is also my “reason” for not drinking that I’m going to tell people. I figure it would be the next logical step in my path to health, and it is in many ways. They don’t need to know about the addiction part.
Hi im janet and yesterday i drank 2 bottles of wine had a nervous break down called people i don t even remember the conversations cried over my brothers death now today u feel like crap so im hoping to start a new life hopefully sober please help i hope i can do this
Hi Janet – I don’t think there is anyone on this feed who hasn’t been in that position before; the lack of memory, the tears, the phoning and messaging people. I have only been alcohol free for 6 weeks, but it is the relief and the freedom from the shame of over drinking that has been the most wonderful part. I feel like the chains have been released, and I no longer have to lie about how I feel or how much I’ve drunk, or worry if my work friends can sense I’m hungover or smell it on my breath! This is a difficult and brave step which you will NOT REGRET – Nothing bad can come from not drinking- Good luck honey x x
Excellent advise. I know I’m going to stay sober
I can totally relate to your post. It’s so horrible the next day! Words can’t describe how embarrassed you feel, the remorse is crippling.
I have been sober a grand total of 15 days possibly the worse time of year to make these life changes but I have to do it for my kids, I bottled out of my works Xmas do it was a hard decision as I’ve only been there 5 month and it would be our first night out together but my health and kids have to come first, I claimed a couldn’t get a babysitter, then on Sunday morning when my work mates were all hungover I went for a ten mile bike ride in the rain and loved it!! I know the next couple of weeks are going to be difficult but thanks for the brilliant tips, I read your blog for a few months before making the decision to stop drinking and it’s really helped, thank you, you really are making a difference in other people’s lives xx Merry Sober Christmas all xx
I’m stupidly excited as I just hit 70 days sober!
Very much looking forward to having my first sober Christmas and getting my yummy drinks sans alcohol organised … with beautiful glassware bien sur 😉
Point number #1 strongly resonated with me. So many people say, ‘Maybe just have one champagne on Christmas Day’ or ‘See how you feel on New Year’s Eve – perhaps one glass of wine with dinner’.
And whilst I know these well-meaning platitudes sound perfectly reasonable, and come from a good place, it makes me think of the saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. At least, that’s my reality where alcohol is concerned.
So bottoms up lovelies! I’ve got my coconut kefir, kombucha, grapefruits, limes, mineral water and berries smoothies ready! <3 xo
Great advice re the ‘I’ll just have 1’ quandary! – it is so tempting, but none of us would be here is one was ever enough! I’m about to book a weekend in Italy near the lakes for Feb and I’m more worried about that than Xmas as the wine is so good there- but there are also mountains to climb and experiences to have- and enough time to mentally prepare myself!! Good luck for these next few weeks- it’s so good to read everyone else’s stories as inspiration…. And amazing for you to have reached 70 days!!! I’m on day 44 and counting Xx
Arghhhh it is so difficult and so depressing. I manages September – Christmas AF, all the positives, all the great stuff, none of the rubbish, and those few wines I have had over Christmas (and I promise I am not telling lies, they weren’t bottled sized wines), haha, have left me feeling like absolute crap. One at the staff do, a few on Xmas Eve, a few on Xmas day, last night (tonight have friends for dinner, and tomorrow is New Years Eve). I think that juggling just a few is potentially worse than just not starting. Now I feel really cross with myself and I have to wait a whole year to nail sober Christmas again, I feel like a failure. Also I think, maybe sober life was still very new to me, and very hard and next year it will be easier. ARghhhhh!!!!!! Janine x
Moderation really is harder than making that one time, committed decision to stop or take a break from booze Janine. I’m launching a free New Year masterclass tomorrow where I’ll share some helpful tips to get you off to the best start in 2023, details here: https://thesoberschool.com/new-year-masterclass-2023/
I agree with you. There is just no way around it, one small moment of potential pleasure is simply not worth it. And I agree because a solid hard decision is that, it isn’t about the what ifs?buts?when?what about?. I’m signing up to the masterclass and making that decision now. Tonight and tomorrow are going to be alcohol free too, why wait until 2023. thank you.
What’s everyone’s thoughts on non alcoholic wine? Is it a good or bad idea? I find wine is my trigger to binge drinking but I’d like to have one with my Christmas dinner
I’m not a fan of the idea 🙁
I was contemplating non alcoholic beer but I’m afraid it will only lead to my backtracking and saying what the hell-try grape juice over crushed ice with lime and a splash of soda-are there trace amounts of alcohol in non-alcoholic drinks?
I’ve tried them all and they are fairly disappointing, but that said they really help with not feeling too left out. The Sainsburys alcohol free fizzy wine is really good for feeling a bit celebratory, and Becks blue beer has the best taste, plus they sell it in lots of pubs too. I think you could make a decent mulled wine with the Eisberg red alcohol free wine too – Morrisons, but be under no illusions that they will relax you in any way! Deep bubbles baths and lots of them is the way forward for relaxation! X
I fear that non-alcoholic wine might end up being a trigger. However, having said that, I am planning on using a club soda, ginger ale, and white grape juice as a mocktail to help me through dinner…..only so that people might not notice and comment on my not drinking. I just figured white grape juice will taste enough NOT like wine that I should be good.
Hi, I’m not a fan of alcohol free wine etc, I have told everyone that will be around me at Christmas that I have stopped drinking, 6 months now. I will be drinking elderflower presse with my lunch, my family are being very supportive but I am kind of dreading it all the same. Hope it goes well for everyone. Happy Christmas to you all.
Thank you so much Kate for your blogs, they have really helped, also reading the stories and advice from others help a great deal.
Well i stopped drinking in mid january 2016 so yes this will be my first christmas sober. But because i am 11 months drug and alcohol free. I have had no real issues with the silly season. We had our christmas party last week and I had a great time and talked to more people than i would have normally (even though i thought of myself as a drunken extrovert) and one thing i really notice about myself is that i ask the person i am talking to about themselves much more than when i am sober.
The other thing i have noticed around this time of year is how different my perspective of time is. I am training for a race on January 29 and it seems like it is just around the corner and i only have 6 weeks till then (which is true). But people who are reeling from one big night to the next boozy lunch are in that existence of one day at a time and the end of january seems like forever away. My friend said to me this week when i mentioned how close this race is, she was like “i have the 12 pubs of christmas this friday night and then i have to drive to the hunter on saturday for another party”.
Just remember how good you feel when you wake up every day and own the fact that you dont drink. Take pride in it.