Christmas time can be a wonderful excuse for a party, can’t it? Time to connect with your colleagues outside the office. With friends and family. Time to reconnect with those you haven’t seen throughout the year. Time to relax, celebrate and enjoy some fun times.
For many people, this means alcohol. Research in 2021 showed that in the UK alone, shoppers spend £2.2bn on alcohol at Christmas time. Now, some of that would be gifts of course, but a lot of it would be consumed at parties.
So what do you do if you don’t drink? Is it possible to still enjoy socialising with friends and family when you’re sober?
The good news is, yes, it really is. I’ve been sober for over 9 years, and this will be my 10th sober Christmas. I went to my first Christmas party of the year yesterday, enjoyed conversations with people I know and people I’d never met before, and came away happy after a wonderful time. I don’t believe that being sober means that you have to isolate yourself from people who are drinking, but you do need to make sure you’ve got some strategies worked out.
So how can you make sure that you can enjoy the fun without feeling that you’re missing out?
Focus on the benefits you’re getting from choosing to be sober at Christmas
When I got sober in 2014, I did it by focusing not on ‘not drinking’ but on ‘staying sober’. I turned all my focus onto the benefits I was getting from sobriety, rather than the lack of alcohol.
When you’re thinking about the party you’re going to, remind yourself of the benefits you’ll get from staying sober. These might be
- Being able to drive home so you don’t have to pay a fortune for a festive taxi
- Remembering the whole of the night
- Not doing anything you’ll regret
- Being able to be present with your family the next day
- No hangover the following morning
- No awkward encounters under the mistletoe with someone you’d never get cosy with if you’re sober
- Being in control of how much money you spend
- Being able to recognise when you’ve had enough and leaving when you want to, rather than simply adding more alcohol to make it all seem like more fun
- Not risking becoming one of the 36000+ drivers that risk lives and licences by driving over the limit
There are so many benefits I’ve found to sobriety that go way beyond the advantages of one sober night. You’ll find your own as well.
Have a plan
When you’re early in sobriety, the thought of doing these alcohol heavy events without joining the drinkers can feel really daunting. We’re so conditioned as a society to expect to drink at parties and other social events that it can be hard to imagine how to do it sober. So it helps to have a plan.
You might want to think about
- How you will explain your sobriety when people ask (it isn’t any of their business, but they may ask). You can always invent a reason they cannot argue with if you worry that anyone will try to encourage you to ‘just have one’.
- How you will refuse offers of alcoholic drinks that come your way.
- What you’ll drink (if the venue/host doesn’t have any nice non alcoholic drinks in stock, let them know about Myth Drinks and The Alcohol Free Drinks Company, they have some amazing alcohol free drinks on offer!)
- What you’ll do if it gets too much for you. Will you be able to leave early if you need to? Can you have someone to call if you need to work through a craving? What strategies do you have to calm yourself if you start to get agitated?
Remember your why
When I was a few years into sobriety, I experienced my first sober break up. I hadn’t really liked the guy that much, but the emotions of the breakup were completely overwhelming – I’d never dealt with this sober since I was 16, and I didn’t know what to do with it. One night, I got very angry that I couldn’t numb out and dive into the oblivion of a bottle of wine for a few hours.
I caught myself having this reaction before it became a stronger need, and asked myself what tomorrow morning Esther would feel like if I got that bottle of wine. I reflected on how much worse I’d feel then, when I had a hangover, regret and shame to add to the mix of painful emotions. Suddenly, I didn’t want the wine, and the breakup pain didn’t seem as bad. I enjoyed waking up hangover and regret free, and remembering that saved me from maybe making a decision I’d regret.
You’ve made the choice to go alcohol free for a reason. Whether it’s to free yourself from addiction, to be a better role model for your kids, to improve your health, or any other reason, it’s yours and it matters. Remembering this can be a powerful motivator when you’re teetering on the edge of hitting the ‘fuckit button’. Before you go to the party, remind yourself why you’re choosing to stay sober this Christmas, and keep hold of that if you start to feel tempted.
Get some support to maintain your sobriety this Christmas
In recovery, as in most things in life, we do much better with support, compassion, and empathy. Having a supportive friend at the party who understands your need for sobriety and can support you can be hugely helpful. If there isn’t someone at the party, someone you can phone or message for support can also get you through things.
As a recovery coach, I can be that person for you. We can work together before your event to help you build the strategies you need to enjoy the party. I can help you celebrate your sober success after the event. And I can be on the end of a WhatsApp message throughout to support you when you’re there.
I’ve been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. I know how hard it can be to start on your sobriety journey. And I know how rewarding and life affirming it can be when you’re securely on the path. I can help you find your path and be your guide as you start to find your way.