The end of the year can be a tricky time of year for us sober people. There are many parties and social events to navigate, plus mounting family pressures, demands on our wallets, and booze, booze, booze everywhere. It's a truly wonderful/terrible time of the year.
When I first quit drinking I felt awful and flat around this time of year without my beloved wine. Thankfully it didn't take too long for me to adjust to my new, non-drinking lifestyle. After a year or two I started to really appreciate being grounded and clear through the madness, but - like many things in sobriety - it did take practice. Below are the best tips, techniques and bits of advice I have gathered in my eleven years of being sober.
1. Put things in perspective
The Silly Season is intense because it has more crammed into it than usual and things feel more heightened, but broken down it's just a bunch of same-same. An end-of-year celebration is just another get-together. Christmas is just another day. New Year's Eve is just another night. Don't stress out, hype up or over-emphasise any Silly Season occasions. They're just like all the other occasions we navigate throughout the year.
2. Work your usual techniques
If a craving hits think HALTS - am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or Stressed? Deal with the underlying need. Also think, "Delay and Distract". A craving has a short time-frame so distract yourself to get through. Call 'Bullshit' on all your hardwired thoughts about alcohol's positive impacts. 'Play the tape forward' past the first sip (it never ends up like the romantic image would have us believe). Visualise yourself climbing into bed sober, visualise yourself waking up in the morning happy and proud with no hangover.
3. You don't have to go
Worth stating. Maybe you should go, but you don't have to go. Your sobriety comes first. If the stress and nerves are too high, stay away and protect yourself.
4. You can leave early
In the middle of a speech, as the meal is wrapping up, as the games come out, you can, without drama, without a scene, leave. Quietly pack up your things and slip out unnoticed, or say a quick goodbye. If you need to explain yourself, just say you have a headache or you've a call booked with a friend out of town or you need to get some urgent medical supplies. You can cry/scream/laugh hysterically in the car or into your pillow later, but for now just leave, get yourself somewhere safe and administer sober first aid. You'll thank yourself in the morning.
5. Fake it till you make it
If you've got no choice but to attend the work christmas party/extended family function/New Year's Eve BBQ (or you decide you want to even though you're feeling nervous) then slap a smile on your face and put a spring in your step. Act like you're going to have a fabulous time and who knows - you might just have a fabulous time! Remember - booze does not have the power to make anything better. The success of an event is determined by a bunch of factors that have nothing to do with the liquid in your glass. Here's Ten Tips for Doing a Party Sober, and some other practical tips.
6. Plan your drinks
Make sure your non-alcoholic beverages are the best goddam non-alcoholic beverages you've had all year. Treat yourself, you're worth it. Buy that expensive bottle of non-alcoholic spirits or the most fancy mocktail ingredients you can find. Visit our Drink of the Week page and plan ahead. If you're out at a venue be clear with the wait staff about exactly what you want to drink and the glass you want to drink it in. Take ownership over your liquids and don't for a moment feel bad or awkward about it.
7. Look around
Everyone has shit going on in their lives. Everyone is as pre-occupied with their shit as you are pre-occupied with yours. Everyone finds the holidays difficult and emotionally charged. Take a really good look around and imagine what is going on for your friends, colleagues and loved ones. Thinking outside of ourselves and recognising that others are also battling away is calming and helps put things in perspective. Being kind and understanding to others helps us feel strong.
8. Remember your sober gang
They may not be with you in the room but there are many thousands of sober people around the country and the world who are getting through the silly season sober. Picture yourself surrounded by an invisible shimmery cloud of fellow brave sober warriors. You are not alone.
9. Stay in touch
Keep your device handy and check in with the online recovery community regularly - every hour if need be! Many sober bloggers will be posting throughout the silly season. Read sober blogs, follow social media accounts dedicated to sobriety and recovery, and of course stay busy in the 'Members Feed' here at Living Sober. Keep your sober buddies close. We all get it, we're all in it together.