This is a really tricky time of year for us sober people. There are numerous parties and social events to navigate, family pressures mount, money flows through our fingers like water and bullshit marketing messages about booze are everywhere.
My first sober Christmas & New Year's was a big deal .. scary, tricky, emotional and really full-on. But I got through it with the help of legendary sober blogger Mr Sponsorpants' Annual Holiday Survival Guide, and a bunch of techniques that I will share here.
This year - my ninth sober silly season - I'm not in the slightest bit worried. Far from it actually, I'm so happy that I'm going to be grounded and clear right through the madness. But it has taken me quite a bit of practice to get to this point. I have some techniques and tips that I'm going to list out here that might help you along if you are feeling nervous about it all.
Put it in perspective:
Christmas Day, NYE, all of December.. they're just days and weeks that we need to get through like all the others. Work your usual techniques to keep your brain on the right track. If cravings hit think HALTS (am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or Stressed?). What can you do to address these feelings & sensations that aren't about booze. Also think, "Delay and Distract". Get busy, do something to move your body or occupy your mind to take your thinking off the craving. Read this for more tips on beating cravings. Call 'Bullshit' on all your hardwired thoughts about alcohol's magical properties. '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. I NEVER wake up regretting not having drunk the night before!
Make the right decisions for you:
Protecting your sobriety (especially if you are new to recovery) is the most important thing. If you think it'll be just too hard to attend social/family events and stay sober - don't go. This silly season will pass without you in the middle of it. In the long run offending a few people is easier to manage than rebuilding after a relapse. If your friends and family are disappointed, hopefully down the track they'll understand. And if they don't, it doesn't matter. You know your truth, you know what's right for you.
If you do decide to sit out some parties & events this year in order to protect your newly sober delicate self, don't let your brain bombard you with 'sober loser' and 'woe-is-me' thoughts. Remember, what you are doing in removing alcohol from your life is brave and amazing and really hard work, and even if it sucks right now you are heading for a much happier reality. Think kind thoughts, treat yourself gently, be your own best friend. This also applies if you are feeling quietly miserable in the middle of a noisy crowd. No-one else might understand how brave you are being but know it yourself. Pat yourself on the back.
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! If not then remember…..
….there's no shame in leaving early:
It's taken me a while to get this (always the last at the party!) but it's ok to quietly pack up your things and say goodbye, or wave 'night night' and head to bed. You came, and now you're going. Especially good when booze is starting to get the better of some people or if family dynamics are getting too much. Smile and be polite (you can cry/scream/laugh hysterically in the car or into your pillow!) but be firm and swift if that's the decision you've made. Just leave, get yourself somewhere safe and administer sober first aid. You'll thank yourself in the morning.
Plan your drinks:
Make sure your non-alcoholic beverages are the best goddam non-alcoholic beverages you've had all year! Buy the most expensive ingredients you can find and treat yourself when you're at home. You are worth it. Visit our Drink of the Week page and plan ahead. Make individual portions of frozen ice & pineapple chunks so you can whip up a Virgin Pina Colada in no time! Make the basis for Homemade Ginger Beer days in advance and just top with fresh soda water when desired! Prepare the simple syrup for a Virgin Mojito. Call it a 'Mocktail Party For One' and go to town. If you're out in town order a Red Bull and pretend it's got vodka in it (that private conceit alone was enough to get me through a massive party in early sobriety). Tell the barman you want water in a wine glass, or gingerbeer in a short tumbler with ice (no straw!). If you're going to someone else's house take along what you want to drink and ask for the type of glass you want to drink it in. Be in charge of your liquids.
Everyone has shit going on in their lives. Everyone is as pre-occupied with their shit as you are pre-occupied with yours. Take a really good look around and imagine what is going on for your friends, colleagues and loved ones. Thinking outside of myself really helps calm me down, recognizing that others are battling away in their own lives helps me get perspective, and being kind and understanding to others helps me feel strong.
Remember you are not alone:
There are many thousands of us around the country and the world who are battling through the silly season sober. Picture yourself surrounded by an invisible shimmery cloud of fellow brave sober warriors. You are not alone.
Stay in touch!:
Keep your phone in your pocket or computer/iPad/smart 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.