Last year, I was newly sober at Christmas. 15 days sober to be exact. I navigated mid to late December on a sort of new autopilot: choosing myself, alcohol free beers and leaving early.
Looking back through my diary from 2016 to see what my first experience of being sober at Christmas time was like, I’d written:
“My friend last night said I was always the first one to leave, which I guess is true but also – who cares? I wanted to leave. I was there for 5 hours and had a good time.”
But the truth is, sometimes I do care. These questions, if I’m being totally honest do go round my head:
Is not drinking boring? Am I boring? Am I becoming one of those ‘evangelical sober’ people that the magazines keep lamenting? Do people not think I’m fun anymore?
It’s not easy for me to write those thoughts down, in a blog post that is supposed to be positive about being sober at Christmas, but taking a long hard look at what your mind is saying to you – and what society normalises – is important.
When I identify that those questions are going round in my mind, I can answer them: I’m not boring, I’m still fun when I want to be and if I’m evangelical about my sobriety it is because it is easily the best thing I’ve ever done for myself – and because when the media is shouting about how great booze is, I feel like I want my alcohol free voice to be out there too.
Being sober at Christmas can be tough and I don’t want to sugar coat it.
The alcohol messaging is EVERYWHERE; the advertising that wraps the Sunday papers is a roast accompanied by a glass of wine, the supermarkets are full of offers on Baileys and wine and ‘festive fizz’. It can feel as though every event, and every party invitation is accompanied by a promise of ‘champagne on arrival’ or mulled wine on tap. Staying mindful of this, and tuning out when you can will help you enjoy being sober at Christmas.
Christmas last year was an odd one for me. We had had a family bereavement in November, and a job loss a couple of days before Christmas – and I was highly sensitive and telling everyone I was sober. It took me a while to get comfortable in my sober skin, but actually doing it at Christmas – around all my family – was a great way to rip the plaster off.
I’m lucky to have a family who don’t visibly pressure me to drink, but I do have a family who drink a lot, or who used to. I really didn’t know how I was going to hang out with my mum without prosecco (that’s another blog post though.)
I made it through that first sober Christmas, and this year I’m looking forward to my second.
I’ve written some tips, for myself, and for you if you need them on how to manage, and enjoy, being sober at Christmas:
- Tell someone you are going to be sober at Christmas
If you can, before you arrive, tell someone that you are going to be sober at Christmas (and throughout the Christmas period). Whether you are spending time at home, with family, with friends, colleagues or abroad; telling someone your plans can help you to stay accountable and also give you some much needed support.
- Write a list of friends and/or family members who you can contact if you need support throughout Christmas
I have certain friends that are always incredibly supportive of my sobriety. If I ever need a firm talking too, or a kind shoulder – they are the ones I call (or whatsapp incessantly). You may have a sponsor too, or a family member who is always there for you. Keep the list close, and if it starts to feel like no one cares that you are sober – make the call. There is also fantastic support via the Club Soda facebook page, I post on there when I’m feeling stuck and I feel like everyone in that group is on my side.
- Plan your drinks in advance
Christmas is a time of year where there is a massive focus on drinks, and when and what people are drinking. Whatever your favourite alcohol free drinks are (tea, diet coke, alcohol free beers or fizz, kombucha), have plenty of them in stock wherever you are. And if you are staying away from home, with friends or family – see if you can make sure these are in the fridge or easily accessible so that you can help yourself at any time.
- Lace up your trainers
One of the best things about being sober (in my experience) is no hangovers, ever!! When everyone else is feeling groggy, you’ll feel fresh! Now I’m not saying go for a run, but whatever movement makes you feel good do it. You could go for a long walk, practice yoga at home – get up and get moving on Christmas day (or boxing day) and you’ll feel great I promise (try not to appear to smug to all your hungover friends/family though!)
- Plan to take some time out
Christmas is intense, wherever you are and whoever you are with. Plan little breaks throughout the day, and festive period and know that it is ok for you to have space! Retreating to your room to meditate, read a book or have a nap can help to replenish your energy and keep you feeling good and positive about being sober at Christmas. If you have time off over the festive break, perhaps spend some time planning what you’d like to do over 2018 (my friend Ariadne has a great reflective guide) or plan a day out of the house to go shopping or for a long walk.
Wherever you are spending Christmas, I want to wish you all a very merry (sober) Christmas. Thank you for all your support this year. L xx