Sober Christmas survival guide
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also the most stressful. If, like me, you will be celebrating your first sober Christmas then you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed, worried or nervous about how you are going to get through Christmas sober without going crazy.To prepare myself for this slightly mad time of year, I have given this topic a lot of thought, spoken to some lovely sober people who have already done it and come out the other side unscathed and come up with my own sober Christmas survival guide which I want to share with you to help you navigate the crazy festive period whilst keeping your resolve to remain sober.
Treat it like any other day
I know it might sound difficult as it seems everywhere we look booze is being pushed on us but it is just another day. Plan your Christmas day as you would any other event. Know your triggers, have an escape plan and just keep doing what you have been doing so far. You already know that alcohol is a toxin and you don’t need it in your life anymore, keep focusing on that as you would at any other time. By December 27th it’s all over anyway and you will wonder what all the fuss is about!
Christmas is so full on, there’s parties, nights out, school plays, family gatherings, neighbour get togethers which can leave us spreading ourselves too thin, feeling wrought and anxious. To avoid the overwhelm do only what you want to do. If you are the party type who loves to put on a sparkly dress and don’t want to give that up just because you’re not drinking,(and why should you) then go for it – just make sure you decide what events you want to go to and say no to the ones you don’t. Similarly if the office party or the annual get together with number 42 on Christmas Eve fills you with horror and did even when you were drinking then just don’t go! You don’t have to explain yourself because everyone is super busy at Christmas time, just say you’re already booked that night and stay at home with your duvet and a DVD or spend quality time with the people you love. Just because you’ve always done something it doesn’t mean you have to keep on doing it.
Decide you are not going to drink.
You want to have a sober Christmas so have one. The power is within you to do this, so do it. When we make a firm decision, it is much easier to stick to, it’s only when we say things like, ‘oh, perhaps I’ll just have one…’ then our resolve weakens and we end up having an internal battle all evening. Remember if one isn’t enough then have non. It is so much easier not to drink at all.
Be a child again
If you have small kids or grandchildren then get on their level and see everything from their eyes. Christmas to me is still so magical, but to my youngest who still believes in Santa it is even more so. Join in with their games (unless they’re annoying or loud then you’re excused) get outside with them to play in the snow if you’re lucky enough to have some. Sit with them and watch all the kid’s Christmas movies (with chocolate!) and revel in the awe and wonder with them. Kids love Christmas and get so much joy out of even the smallest things so make your world small and beautiful with them, appreciate the leaves, the snow covered trees, the fairy lights and the Christmas decorations. I am looking forward to really sharing and feeling the joy, anticipation and excitement with my kids this year.
“If you have small kids or grandchildren then get on their level and see everything from their eyes”
Ask for sober related gifts
This simple request to friends and family is a great opportunity to reinforce what you are doing, to yourself and other people. I used to get loads of alcohol related cards and gifts and it was a bit sad actually to imagine that the only thing people associated with me was booze – I am much more than that!! This year I have asked for some fabulous teas, gorgeous alcohol free drinks and a beautiful journal to help me with my thoughts and musings. It could be anything really, a posh tea cup or some nice coffees, a sober sloganed top – whatever takes your fancy! Make a statement, own your sobriety and have fun opening your lovely sober stuff on Christmas morning!
Plan for parties
Whether you love them or hate them, chances are you might have to go to at least one Christmas party this year and if you want to keep sober then make your plan. I talked about this alot with Clare Pooley for my blog on how to socialize sober and socializing sober at Christmas needn’t be any different from socializing sober in June. Things to remember:
• Drive yourself everywhere so you can leave when you want (just don’t be the taxi driver – have you ever tried to persuade a drunk person it’s time to go home?)
• Have an escape plan and know your cut off point – ie the point when it becomes dangerous to stay any longer and leave before you get to that stage in the evening.
• Take your own alcohol free drinks if possible and always keep your glass full. If you can’t take your own drinks then have 4 or 5 alcohol free drinks in mind so you don’t get bored drinking the same thing and if you ask for something and they don’t have it, you always have another option.
• Arrive late and leave early. If this is an event that you have to attend but don’t want to, then just get in and then get out!
Ask for Help
People have huge expectations at Christmas, we want everything to be perfect and sparkly because that’s what it’s like on the telly. If you are hosting then ask people to bring stuff so you don’t have to do all the work and get stressed out. You don’t have to be the entertainment all evening either so just let things go with the flow and soak up the beautiful atmosphere. If you are at a friends or neighbours house then give help to the host as much as you can so you don’t have to sit around and watch while others get drunk. Feel free to escape anytime you need to – hang out with the kids, go for a walk, sit in the bathroom and take some deep breaths. If it is getting too much then just remove yourself from the situation for as long as necessary to get things into perspective.
“If you are at a friends or neighbours house then give help to the host as much as you can so you don’t have to sit around and watch while others get drunk”
Make an alternative Advent Calendar
I love this idea and will be doing the same this year! You could prepare 25 inspirational quotes, print them out and put them in a bowl so every day you take one out and keep it with you as you go about your day. This will keep your motivation and give you something lovely to look at if things get tough. Or write a list of 25 things to treat yourself with starting on December 1st and do that one thing every day. You might choose to do things like have your nails done, buy a special treat, take a walk, have a relaxing bath – it doesn’t really matter as long as it is something special that you can do every day.
Indulge in extreme self care
Make the most of the holidays to really look after yourself and try not to get stressed out. It is often the build up to Christmas day that puts us under so much pressure. Give yourself a break. Make sure you have lots of nice food and delicious alcohol free drinks at home. Pamper yourself, sleep, spend time with the kids. Christmas is a time for families, it’s not a time to spend getting wasted so make sure you think of yourself and if at any point you feel overwhelmed, then do something for you.
Create a new tradition
If putting up the tree was usually a time to crack open the wine and then sit on the sofa then switch it up and do something different. Perhaps go for a walk afterwards or make a new decoration for the tree, make biscuits with the kids, play a game or decide on a new non alcoholic drink to go with putting up the tree. Make your first sober Christmas a time to remember and mark the occasion with something special.
Sobriety is a beautiful gift to yourself so be grateful for this. Remember what used to be fun about alcohol isn’t anymore and know that all the work you are putting in is making you feel good. It might seem like a lot of effort but surely it takes more effort to get through the days hungover, anxious, stressed out and muggy headed. Alcohol does not have magical properties, it will not make a bad situation good, it will not make Christmas more ‘Christmasy.’ Be proud and thankful for every day you wake up hangover free and celebrate this by being nice to yourself.
Plan, plan and plan some more
Take out your diary and a big piece of paper. Do some brainstorming and write all the activities you will be doing, everything from the office party to wrapping presents to making the gravy. How do you feel about each of these activities? Write down any possible triggers, plan what you will do instead of drinking, do you have an escape plan, what will you wear, what non alcoholic drink will you enjoy, how will you cope with annoying Uncle Tony? Try and foresee the problems and the great bits about these situation and how you are going to deal with each one. It’s a bit like going into battle so prepare your tactics and get your armour ready!
Remember why this is important to you
Just because it is Christmas don’t forget why you are doing this. This is your choice, your decision. Take a bit of time to reflect on your ‘why’ sit with it, meditate on it, make a note of it – perhaps turn it into a card or picture for yourself to keep with you as a constant reminder that you are doing something wonderful for you. Most importantly, always feel good about your decision.
Enjoy Christmas morning hangover free! This for me, is the one thing I am looking forward to the most which I mentioned in my blog about why a sober Christmas is the best gift you can give yourself. If you are struggling on Christmas eve with the relatives, the TV ads, the wrapping then just play it forward. You know that Sunday morning are awesome without a hangover – just imagine how Christmas morning will feel without one!
I’d love to hear from you. What are your plans for a successful sober Christmas? Have you already had the joy of a Christmas without alcohol? Share your tips below!