Christmas is not about the liquid in our glasses (Guest Post)

Matt looking serious

This guest post comes from sober hero Matt Calman (@emjaycee), author of The Longest Day.

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I was just over 6-months into my sobriety journey when my first sober Christmas rolled around. It was Christmas 2016 which seems like a lifetime ago to me now.

I went back to the blog I was writing at the time to jog my memory of how it all went.

I wrote about how others were agonising over whether the champagne stocks were sufficient for the big day (to avoid the nightmare scenario of the booze running out). I wrote about a friend ringing me for advice on giving up, because they realised they had a “drinking problem”.  I reflected on how alcohol was no longer a factor in my life, and how I was looking forward to the Christmas Holiday. I wrote: “I don’t feel like I’ll be missing out at all. I’m looking forward to focussing on what’s important – family unity, love for and from my wife and children, and sharing good times with friends. I’m also looking forward to my clear-headed mornings. Where does alcohol rank in the grand scheme of things? I’m happy to say it just doesn’t.”

I look back and am grateful I already had some sober form over the previous six months. I’d had plenty of practice socialising sober, during a family holiday, and during my 40th birthday. I wasn’t going into Christmas clinging onto sobriety by my finger nails. But I’m aware it’s not going to be like that for everyone.

It can be so stressful navigating the final push to Christmas Day, dealing with at times fraught family dynamics, the logistics of feeding and watering everyone, and having everyone else necking booze all day. There’s a lot of pressure on to enjoy it. There is also so much uncertainty about the future at the moment. The pressures of the transition towards the post-covid era, and continuing social and economic stresses from the pandemic, are still being felt.

There is a seemingly endless list of reasons to drink, especially at Christmas. I certainly needed little arm twisting to drink throughout much of my adult life. But what started me on my sober path was the fact that I had never had a prolonged period of sobriety since my mid-teens, and more importantly I knew my problem drinking was making me truly miserable. Once I had made the break, I realised pretty quickly that I didn’t need alcohol, and that life was actually better without it.

We as a society are brought up to believe that social events are enhanced by alcohol, and that hard times are eased by it. We are brought up to believe that drinking goes hand in hand with pretty much every facet of our lives.

If you believe the messaging from Big Alcohol (PLEASE DON’T!) and their not-at-all-subtle deluge of Christmas advertising, then you you'll believe drinking in moderation is actually good for you (TOTAL BULLSHIT).

When I was a drinker, I seldom questioned alcohol's role in our lives. It was always there - in the background and foreground of our lives. Being a shy person, I used alcohol to help me socialise. But learning to socialise without that crutch has greatly enhanced my enjoyment of being with others – being totally present. I’ve learnt that the sober me is good enough.

Later in my 30s my drinking became a sadder, more solitary pursuit to numb negative feelings I had about myself. When tough feelings rise now, or shitty things happen, I sit with the pain and process it properly rather than drown my feelings with alcohol. It’s still pain, and it’s still difficult, and often it does still feel overwhelming, but it’s been an amazing gift to learn more coping mechanisms than simply getting drunk.

For those of you who are early in your sobriety, or considering giving up this Christmas, I understand how scary this can be. When I was battling temptation I think about how desperate I felt when I made the decision to quit, which reaffirms why I decided I no longer wanted alcohol in my life. I think about my worst drinking moments, and then I think about all the gains – how being sober has transformed my life for the better.

In the past year I’m probably more settled and staunch in my sobriety than ever before. The drinking of others probably annoys me more rather than less if I’m honest. I’m meeting more and more people who choose to drink very occasionally if at all.

For me, Christmas is about the people you love, the people who love you, and being together. It’s really not about something as arbitrary as the liquid in our glasses. Above all remember, it is possible to live sober.

Wishing you all the best for Christmas. You deserve it.

Matt Calman @emjaycee

8 Comments
  1. Ginger1960 6 months ago

    Thank you for this lovely post. You are an inspiration to all of us❤️

  2. MsMlN 6 months ago

    I’ve chosen to start my journey 2 weeks out from Christmas which seems a bit mad really. But the alternative, was putting it off til the timing was right…when that was going to be I’m not quite sure. I’m confident I would have come up with plenty of excuses to buy just 1 more bottle of wine. My focus this Christmas is going to be my family. The joy of us being together. The joy of the yummy food. The joy I personally get from giving. I actually can’t wait x

  3. PeterM 6 months ago

    Heading into my second sober Christmas. Very thankful for the place I have found myself in . I am finding increasingly however that I really do not enjoy being around people who are drinking to excess – even people I care about. And it’s not because I feel tempted to join them. I see now that most people I know do only drink in moderation. I only thought that everyone was drinking as much as I was. People who are drinking as much as I was are not the life of the party they think they are. 16 months into my sobriety and I am still learning about myself.

  4. Mrtoolbox 6 months ago

    Wot a amazing post and one I could relate too a lot. this is going to be my first dry Christmas followed by a dry birthday. I have tried hard this year but have allowed stress and anxiety to regain control. I have now lost access to my two children as I ended up in hospital this week again from using alcohol to try and battle my depression and anxiety. All it’s done is made it worse . I did so well at points this year not drinking for months then making that mistake of just one won’t hurt and so it starts again ! Never be weak and never say yes to any as once you silence and control that dragon he is easy to wake again !! Don’t make my mistakes

    • Emjaycee 6 months ago

      There all good learnings from picking up again, and it reinforces the decision why we’ve chosen to leave alcohol behind. Keep trying ! Its worth it. All the best for xmas and 2023.

  5. Starlight 6 months ago

    Such a great post, thank you. Not having alcohol as factor in my life has been the best choice I’ve ever made.

  6. reena 6 months ago

    Thanks so much Matt, gives everyone inspiration and what an attitude of gratitude you had from the start!

  7. Raybelinda 6 months ago

    Thank you Matt great post, I really needed this reinforcement today. 5 months in myself and this time of year is crazy! Thankful to have some time ticked up and feeling determined about the new path I have taken. Your book is a gift to myself this Christmas!
    Keep going everyone 🤗

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