Kate's Blog

The alcohol illusion at Christmas

Sometimes I think the festive season should really be called ‘booze season’. From the beginning of December until the 1st of January, people go slightly bonkers in the name of celebrating Christmas. And as any sober person knows, where there is mass celebration, mass drinking is never far behind.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas. And I’ve got no problem with other people drinking, if that’s how they have a good time. But still, I can’t help noticing how present booze is in our lives during the festive period.
Whether it’s the work night out or a trip to the Christmas markets, alcohol is frequently shoved in your face. When you’re newly sober – or struggling to stop – it feels like a constant reminder that you’re different and strange for trying not to drink. The endless pro drinking messages don’t just appear in advertising; they’re reinforced by the beliefs of those around us. Christmas sure is great for niggling away at your resolve and filling your mind with doubts.
The really important thing to do at this time is to make sure you see the alcohol illusion for the con it really is. Nobody needs alcohol in order to have a good time or celebrate properly. It’s a total myth. It’s a marketing trick that thousands of people have fallen for. It’s not the contents of your glass that delivers a magical Christmas: it’s what’s inside you. It’s the people you’re with and where you are and the mood you’re in. You don’t need alcohol any more than you need cigarettes or heroin or any other drug.
Just look at these old cigarette ads.
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It wasn’t so long ago that smoking was considered cool and glamorous and an essential part of having fun. Even Santa smoked. These cigarette ads seem pretty outrageous now, but how different are they to the alcohol adverts of today? It’s all marketing / brainwashing. Right now, drinking is considered fun and sexy but maybe in a few years’ time we’ll look back and think how weird it was that everyone drank so much. Maybe society will have moved on to some other drug by then – probably some legal high that hasn’t yet been invented.
This year will be my third sober silly season and I’m not terribly worried about it. I know that not drinking gives me the best shot of having a happy Christmas. I never, ever look at alcohol any more and think ‘gosh I’d love a glass of that’. But occasionally I get the odd woe-is-me pang when I hear people planning a big night out and the various ways they are going to get wasted. It’s not that I want to get drunk; it’s more that I don’t want to miss out on a group activity.
It’s a bit like that episode of Friends when Rachel tries to take up smoking because she doesn’t like missing out on the conversations her boss has with everyone during the smoking break. She wants to fit in, so she starts joining them for some ‘fresh air’ and even pretends to smoke with them.
I know where she’s coming from. There is a certain level of camaraderie in taking a drug in a group setting – you can’t argue with that. And here lies the problem with Christmas. The festive season is effectively one giant drug taking session, with booze the poison of choice. And whenever people are doing things on mass, it takes confidence to be the one that does something different.
The woe-is-me thoughts happen very rarely, but when they do I remind myself of all the great parties I’ve been to whilst stone cold sober. I remind myself that I don’t need a mind-numbing, brain-bending drug in order to have fun. I remind myself of how it feels to have a great night out and wake up the next day feeling refreshed. I remind myself that the instant bonding that booze brings is a fake kind of camaraderie. It’s not worth much, compared to the genuine belly laughs that real friendship brings.
So, this Christmas make sure you don’t fall for the hype! It’s hard, I know, when you’re new to this and boozy images are in your face all the time. Remember, alcohol creates a good illusion but rarely delivers on its promises. Count yourself lucky that you are getting this opportunity to have a REAL Christmas and experience true joy, without a mind altering drug distorting your perception of it!

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. 


17 responses

    1. How ironic it is that people get drunk on Christmas day or season more than any other occasion in a year. The essence of Christmas and how people view it gets dimmer. Thanks for your article. A must read for everyone, sober esp for those who aren’t.

  1. I agree the times I’ve been told I need to stick a vodka in my lime and soda over the last two weeks, I despair. I really feel it makes other people feel so uncomfortable when you are not drinking, I find it so sad that no one seems happy for you to be taking charge of your life. When I tell people how much money I’m saving through not drinking alcohol they are really interested though. I’ve been on lots of nights out since being sober and I don’t miss it at all, it doesn’t keep me from being a chatterbox and I used to think that was the booze helping me, how wrong was I. Xx

    1. It’s so annoying, isn’t it? The way other people react says a lot about them. Glad to hear you’re having a great time anyway – well done! x

  2. Hi Kate!
    I don’t comment much on your Blog because I feel a bit self-conscious, but this is just to say a huge ‘Thank You!’ for being here when I need to remind myself that I’m not the only one who’s given up alcohol.
    It’ll be three years on January 1st for me, too (Well, apart from one slip a couple of months into it), and like you, I’m enjoying every second of being dry.
    You’re completely right -you DON’T need alcohol to have a good time, and as you say, knowing that you’re going to wake up feeling great really is the best feeling.
    I guess my main ‘gripe’ is that I didn’t do this and give up twenty years ago!
    I hope you have a marvellous Christmas and New Year, and I look forward to more of your tales of sobriety!
    Thank you once again!

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Nick – it’s always great to hear from other sober people who are doing so well! Hope you have a happy Christmas x

  3. Spot on as always Kate!
    The so-called ‘Festive Season’ has always been the most difficult time for me to remain sober. It has long and deeply-rooted associations with drinking (always to excess).
    I have been sober since the end of October. This weekend I faced my biggest challenge yet – my daughter’s wedding. In the event, in spite of all the nerves about the day, the speech, the glad-handing, etc, I got through it just fine, with my bottle of non-alcoholic fizz and the occasional lime & soda. Not only did I enjoy every minute, I actually remember every minute, each conversation, exactly the way it all happened! Had I been drinking it could have been a very different ending.
    I was able to see through the illusion of alcohol-induced “pleasure”, watch everyone drink, be happy for them that they could (whilst knowing it would have been at least as good for them without the booze), and happy for me that I didn’t have to.
    I don’t think I need to explain again the part your blogs and reading recommendations have played in keeping me on the right track, but allow me to say thanks anyway!
    I feel ready now to face the Christmas challenge. I think of how much I enjoyed this time of year when I was growing up. It was always a magical time in our house, and the strongest thing I would have to drink would be some home-made non-alcoholic ginger wine. Maybe I should get busy making some again and hopefully rekindle a few happy, sober memories!

    1. Thanks for your comment Mike, it really made me smile, especially the wedding bit. What a great day to be clear headed, fully present and able to remember every single moment. Congratulations – it’s a great challenge to have overcome so early on in your sobriety. Hope you have a lovely Christmas! x

  4. Merry Christmas to you, Kate! I’m across the pond from you in FL, USA. I commented before on one of your posts that I turned 30, and I just hit one year a few days ago, about to run my 2nd half-marathon, and couldn’t be happier! And for the first time in years, I’m spending Christmas with my family. Thank you for this post, so very true. Alcohol makes a lot of promises it just can’t keep. Even in “moderation” I never felt anything the ads or commercials depicted, mostly felt slow, stupid, emotional, disinhibited somewhat but being disconnected from reality, what good does that do really? Love the blog, keep up the good work! More people need to know the truth about alcohol, how life can be better without it, and really the only way is to lead by example. Let’s show em’!

    1. Thanks Amy and huge congratulations on hitting a year sober! You’re a great example of all the brilliant things that happen when you kick the booze. Hope you have a lovely Christmas xx

  5. I feel like I needed this article today. I’m just over 14 months sober so this is my second sober Christmas and I feel like I’m struggling more this year than last (maybe the newly sober euphoria has finally disappeared!) – it’s good to know when you’re struggling that other people are in the same sober boat and you can find articles like online. It really helps, thank you for sharing it 🙂

  6. Hi Kate – I am having a hard time this holiday season with sobriety. I remind myself again and again that the only thing a drink will facilitate is a hangover and bad takeout food. Without alcohol, I have made my own Christmas ornaments, mailed homemade jams to friends, enjoyed the beautiful lights, but still the urge tugs at me.
    Thank you for writing this post. It helps so much. I loved reading your Sober Journalist blog and happy to see it has evolved into something more. Merry Christmas and Happy 2016!

    1. Jennifer, just wanted to read the blog for a little support on this Christmas eve.. I’m struggling like you and am anxious about today and tomorrow. I also know the reality of giving in to the booze. Fights,hangovers,fast food,and sleepless nights. I’ve gotten some sparkling cider to have on hand. We bought 6 bottles to make sure thare is always a bottle chilling. I would love to know exactly when we can leave the family tomorrow,but I’m thinking that is going to be hard to gauge. How many questions am I going to have to answer about being the designated driver? Why do I care? We just know that drinkers don’t like it when someone is not drinking
      Keep in touch and stick to your plan..KIMBERLY D

  7. It’s quite sad that I had to pretend my soda water was a g n t recently, I just wasn’t in the mood to hear the ‘why aren’t you drinkingDe?’ Especially as I have a reputation of being a party animal and come from a very alcohol focused family. Love the blog btw

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