Christmas is fast approaching and with it, so is Christmas party season, and the excesses that go in hand with it.
For me, Christmas brings a range of mixed emotions – I love the feel of festivity, colour, lights, warmth, kindness…you know, all the sort of stuff that makes Winter seem cosy – but the flip side of the coin is the hall pass it gives everyone to drink way to much and normalise binge drinking. The victims are varied – from the usual non drinker who indulges at the office party and the shock to the system it causes them through to the seasoned functioning alcoholic ( I know him well ) who relishes in the excuse that Christmas gives them to drink more frequently, more heavily and dress it all up as festive cheer.
Perhaps the biggest victim, although i am trying to dress this up as an objective view rather than one of self pity, is for the recovering alcoholic, who works tirelessly to maintain their sobriety and all that it brings to their life, who enters the months of November and December under a barrage of advertising, expectation to drink and a never ending schedule of family, friends and work functions where booze flows freely and it feels like the whole World is having the best time ever as a result.
If that resonates with you, then fear not, as RCVRY is on hand to help out – this time with our top 5 tips for surviving the silly season as a non drinker!!!
1. One day at a time – we’ve all heard it and we’ve possibly all lived by this mantra as well, but during this time of year, it becomes our staunch ally. As November darkens our doorstep and the first fairy lights appear in neighbourhood windows, a sense of foreboding may come over you as you fear the onslaught of the festive cacophony. But – rather than fear the oncoming 2 months, remember – take it one day at a time. If you live in dread of this time of year two things will happen – firstly you simply won’t get any enjoyment from it, and there is plenty to enjoy, ESPECIALLY in sobriety, and secondly, the massive hurdle ahead of you will weigh you down and cause you more anxiety and potential worry than is healthy. Keeping it in the day means you’ll tackle things as they arise and not waste precious mental energy tackling things in your own mind that may never even come to fruition. Before you know it, we’ll be in Dry January, everyone is living the sober dream with you and you’ll be looking back at Xmas with happy memories – trust me.
2. It’s ok to say “No”– Seriously. It’s your life and you can make your own decisions. Try it, it’s really rather liberating. If the rest of your colleagues are going for a lunch time drink on the last day before the the Xmas break, and you don’t want to put yourself in temptations path, you have every right to just say “No”. Yes, you’ll get some abuse, but after they’re 2 pints in, the sad truth is they won’t really care if you, or anyone else for that matter, is there – and you will have escaped potentially derailing your valuable sobriety. All through the power of the word “no”. Apply the same rule at Christmas family functions. If you arrive and 30mins in everyone is partaking in a few alcoholic beverages, and you feel uncomfortable or tempted – it is fine for you to make an excuse and leave. Your life remember. Any expectations people have of you to stay and be a part of these celebrations are massively out weighed by you maintaining your sober life.
3. Remember to pat yourself on the back – I mean it. Be smug if you need to. When you left that family function, or said no to those lunchtime drinks, and you wake up the following morning without a trace of a hangover, a dry mouth, a thumping headache, regrets, periods of blackout and not even a sniff of vomit on last nights clothes – give yourself a congratulatory high five – you did good. If it helps, get up and do something positive and indulgent in that morning time when your less sober peers are all still in bed languishing in a World of hurt, wasting their day due to over indulgence. It’ll make you feel better. When your WhatsApp group chat starts pinging with details of the previous night, don’t dwell on what you missed ( the reality is always 10% of the legend created in the aftermath ) but revel in what you escaped instead.
4. Do some fun stuff – Christmas is a fun time of year. Millions of kids enjoy it every year without a drop of the hard stuff. I’m not suggesting you go and sit on Santa’s knee, but reward yourself by doing some fun, sober activities – they’ll make not drinking seem even more worth it. From the cinema to rock climbing – there’s tons of great activities you could get into, and although they will invariably come at a price, you’ll be saving money in the long run, as well as the small matter of your health and mental wellbeing.
5. Give something back – It’ll make you feel so good. Giving presents is always a nice feeling, but is there something you can do in any small way to help someone still in active addiction? If you’re a member of a 12 step group, is there a service position open you could take up? It is amazing how much you’ll get from giving back to the recovery community. Not only does it focus you on your own journey, but it helps others to. This time of year doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be about excess and temptation. It should be about giving and showing gratitude – both very important pillars in recovery.
So there you go – 5 tips to help you stay dry and positive in December. There’s no escaping it, it is a tricky time and probably one of the most prolific for alcohol temptation in the calendar year ( along with holidays ). However, with the right mindset and approach, it can be the best time of the year and one to enjoy and look forward to.
Since I’ve found and maintained my own sobriety, I have had some of my best Christmases ever ( well – since getting my first BMX at the age of 7 ).