Living well through your first (or second) sober Christmas & New Year
I try not to be too pushy in my blogs in terms of what you ‘should’ do but if this is your first sober festive season then I can only strongly urge you to mentally PLAN, PLAN and PLAN some more. The title of this blog includes a second sober Christmas and the reason I mentioned the second year is because I didn’t plan my second sober festive season because the first had gone so well and by not mentally planning at all there were definitely times where I felt very triggered, as if I was missing out. I didn’t act on these feelings, but my second sober festive season could have been as good as the first if I had engaged in some mental planning so what do I mean by this?
Ultimately you are trying to avoid any ‘f**k it’ thoughts popping up that you then act upon and drink. Whether you have been sober for 2 days, weeks, months or years you really, really do not want to do that. Planning involves establishing what events you have agreed to go to, thinking about who will be there and how you are going to behave around them so that you either (i) get through it sober (this might be all you can hope for at certain friend/family events, or (ii) enjoy it sober.
Mentally planning has to take on a forensic quality. What I mean by this is that you have to really think about who you will be spending time with and how they might behave around you now that you don’t drink. This is an ideal opportunity for friends who feel threatened by you not drinking to suggest that as its Christmas ‘you really should just have one!’ How are you going to respond to that suggestion? Who might also be around that could support you or deflect attention when you say no?
When you first stop drinking you can find yourself saying no a lot of the time and I am going to write a blog about this too but for now plan ahead and think about how you might frame that ‘no’. Do you have to frame it differently for different people you are going to spend time with? Let’s not forget that this is supposed to be a fun time (though Omicron is doing a great job of sabotaging that idea) so you probably don’t want to dampen someone’s mood or have an argument about this.
Perhaps you might avoid the issue altogether claiming you drank too much the day before? Or use the good old faithful excuse ‘I’m on antibiotics’. Just bear in mind that even if you are being encouraged to drink and are wavering, it’s just one moment in time and one interaction and all you need to do is say no politely but firmly and move the conversation on. If that doesn’t feel possible and you feel your resolve slipping then simply leave the room, pop to the bathroom or get outside for a breath of fresh air. That moment will then have passed. Remember you never question the decision, as the saying goes.
It’s also a good idea to plan what you want to drink at any events and as it’s a special time of the year maybe try some non-alcoholic drinks beforehand and take what you like and prefer to drink with you. If you drink your favourite nonalcoholic tipple in a wineglass or champagne flute you will be amazed how people don’t even notice what you are drinking, and the comments will likely stop, particularly as the day or party goes on.
Plan what treats you want to enjoy over the festive season too and this includes how you are going to take care of yourself. This can be a very difficult time of the year if it happens to be your first sober Christmas, so take on board the idea that above all else you need to be very kind to yourself. If that means you attend fewer social events or leave things early in order to protect your alcohol free life then so be it.
Living well sober is precious and one Christmas is not going to sabotage it. If it feels like you are missing out, reframe and focus on how proud of yourself you are going feel the following day by holding onto your resolve. Other more obvious treats might include planning to have particular food you really enjoy, or it may be that you buy yourself something that means a lot to you or make a donation to a charity that you want to support with the money that you are saving by not drinking. Any of these things will provide positive justification (if you need it) for staying alcohol free and appreciating that you are starting to live well sober by behaving in this way.
At whatever event you are at, as other people continue to drink and their inhibitions slip away, if they bring up that fact that you are not drinking (as tends to happen) it will go one of two ways and again plan how you will handle this. Either they will let you know that they are amazed you’ve done this and go on to tell you that they could never do it (though they really don’t drink that much!) Take this at face value, whatever their motives, and bask in this complement. Or they will ask you why one earth you’ve stopped drinking? It’s up to you how you respond to this question. You may offer a complete fabrication or offer the truth, its entirely up to you as it really isn’t their business.
I went to lots of festive events in my first couple of years sober and sometimes no one mentioned the fact that I wasn’t drinking at all. Never be surprised by this but planning what you will say or do if you are triggered or placed in a difficult situation is absolutely key to successfully managing this time of year. The festive season isn’t something to be endured when you don’t drink it’s a time to enjoy just like anyone else. It may sound like a lot of planning but taking on board what I’ve said here really won’t take up too much mental effort or time.
When you go to bed with a clear head you can be absolutely certain that tomorrow is going to be so much better than if you had drank. You will have achieved something you perhaps never thought possible and that feeling is priceless.