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, apart from the fact I maintained my alcohol free status.

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 had written about a friend ringing me for advice on giving up, because they realised they had a “drinking problem”.  I had reflected on how alcohol was no longer a factor in my life, and how I was looking forward to the Christmas Holiday: “… 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 to Noosa in August, and at my 40th in October. 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. And this year we have the added pressures that have come with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the looming threat of Omicron. There is so much uncertainty about the future at the moment.

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 (which still happens occasionally) 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.

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. Hammer123 6 months ago

    I agree that I never questioned alcohol’s role in my life it was always there and seemed necessary. This has been my 4th Christmas sans the alcohol and very morning is more enjoyable and I don’t miss all frustration about when to start drinking and how much to drink. Thanks for your post and I wish you a very happy and successful new year.

  2. Mari135 6 months ago

    Good to see you stop by, Matt! xoxo Thanks heaps for sharing this. I always found your story helpful because depression fueled a lot of my drinking.

  3. JR 6 months ago

    Enjoyed reading your story, thank you for being an inspiration here.

  4. Treehugger 6 months ago

    Kia ora @emjaycee / Matt, long time no see/read! Thank you for sharing your post. My sober anniversary is Dec 3rd, so I was very early on in my freedom. I remember crying, alot! I felt like the only sober person in the world, which is completely not true of course. I totally relate to your description of drinking becoming sadder and more solitary. – was also me in my 30s.

    Thanks again for sharing your words of wisdom. Great to see a familiar face, you will help so many with your post. Meri Kirihimete ki a koe, me tou whaanau 🙂

  5. boomersandie 6 months ago

    Thank you for this, I needed it as my first Christmas without drinking to ‘celebrate’. I had almost convinced myself that a glass or two would be okay!!
    Now feeling stronger, its 110 days tomorrow. Merry Christmas🎄

  6. Liz West 6 months ago

    Thanks so much for your post! Its going to be my first Christmas sober and Im facing it with a mixture of excitement and trepidation! Your comments are strengthening!

  7. pinchie 6 months ago

    Great post Matt, thank you! Coming up to my first sober Christmas since I was a kid, so some excellent messages/reminders in there. Nice one @emjaycee 😊

  8. Starlight 6 months ago

    Excellent post! Thank you. I just got 6 months and this will be my first sober Christmas. Much like you, I am very much looking forward to it. Life is infinitely better without alcohol. Going to check out The Longest Day now. Merry Christmas Matt. 🎄

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