With Christmas quickly approaching and festive celebrations already firmly underway. If you’re wondering how to stay sober at Christmas, the coming month is likely to be a daunting prospect.
Traditionally, Christmas is a time of excess; excessive spending, excessive eating, excessive partying and excessive drinking. For those that are relatively new to sobriety or have recently gotten sober, Christmas can be one of the most prominent tests of your recovery.
The following tips for staying sober at Christmas could help you or a loved one to get through the Christmas period without giving in to the temptation of having a drink. Not only that but actually enable you to relax and enjoy the Christmas holidays.
It’s important to remember that for every negative or fearful thought, there is an alternative that is safe and gives you the freedom to be yourself without alcohol.
“I don’t want to feel left out at the Christmas works party.”
Christmas works parties are notoriously boozy. Your work colleagues have probably already started to plan the alcohol-fuelled shenanigans. For someone newly sober, the thought of being surrounded by drunken work colleagues and free alcohol on tap is likely to make them feel full of angst.
You may feel you don’t want to miss out, then have to listen to the constant chatter of who did what and what happened. Naturally, most people want to fit in and feel part of what is going on in the office.
Deciding whether to attend your works Christmas party if boozing is the main agenda, maybe something you want to decide on the day of the event if you can. If you feel overly anxious or that there may be even the smallest chance of you picking up a drink don’t go.
Some tips on how to stay sober at a party are trying to keep the event in context, it may seem like a massive deal as everyone gets in the Christmas mood, but it is only one day/evening.
Instead, you may wish to invite a few close work colleagues out for a meal, or plan ahead and find out who is not drinking at the party so that you can remain in sober company.
When first giving up drinking, it can feel like your the only one. The reality is that not everyone likes alcohol! Some people will choose to stay booze-free or stick to just one or two drinks before swapping to non-alcoholic beverages.
“I’m worried someone will buy me alcohol as a present.”
If you’re new to sobriety, you may not have told people of your current sober status. Christmas is a time of year where it is common to give alcohol to others as a gift – this can present a problem to someone who is trying hard not to drink!
Be prepared and have a plan for what you will do with the alcohol if you receive any as a gift. Most people who are new to sobriety don’t want to make a big issue out of it or offend anyone.
If you don’t feel brave enough to tell the gift bearer, you may consider quickly passing on the gift to a family member, friend or neighbour that will be able to enjoy it. Failing that dispose of the alcohol down the sink.
We would not advise anyone new to sobriety to have alcohol in their home. Your home needs to be a safe space for you. Even though you may feel strong and focused in your sobriety now, there may come a time where you will feel tempted by alcohol in your home. It is better not to take the risk.
“Staying sober at Christmas will be boring.”
If you worry Christmas will be boring without alcohol, get into the festive spirit. No not that spirit! We mean the true spirit of Christmas, the spirit of giving and receiving and enjoying quality time with others.
Christmas means different things to different people; as an ex problem drinker, Christmas was probably all about the booze and parties before, now you have the opportunity to enjoy the true spirit of Christmas and to find a new meaning for you.
Instead of fearing an alcohol-free Christmas, consider all the positives and all the advantages of staying sober. One of the biggest pluses of not drinking is waking up hangover free and being able to recall everything from the day before. Not drinking means that you will enjoy your food more and are a lot less likely to embarrass yourself, or those that you love.
We suggest planning a few Christmas events that don’t require alcohol to enjoy. You may wish to take a younger member of the family to a pantomime, organise a Christmas walk, invite others in recovery to a games night, attend a local church service or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. There are plenty of events and things to do at Christmas that doesn’t involve alcohol.
“I will be on my own at Christmas.”
If you haven’t had the opportunity to find others that are in a similar position and in recovery also, and do not have the support of your family, consider helping those less fortunate than yourself.
Helping others has proven to be a handy recovery tool for many. In fact, many who have years of sober recovery still find assisting others a vital part of maintaining their own wellbeing.
You may consider volunteering Christmas day at a local homeless shelter, rehab or help the elderly. Being sober, you will now have so much more to offer others; at the same time, you will learn more about yourself and get the feel-good factor from freely giving your time.
If you are planning on spending Christmas alone, this can be dangerous, especially if it is your first sober Christmas. Self-pity combined with boredom, resentment and loneliness is a toxic mix and would test most alcoholics recovery. There are many places that would be incredibly grateful for your help and presence over the Christmas period, so plan ahead and make some enquiries.
“I don’t know how to cope with family over the holidays sober.”
It is a common feeling when first coming into sobriety to feel overwhelmed when in the presence of family. You may even feel like a fish out of water. Staying clean and sober puts a different perspective on everything, and you won’t have alcohol as a means of coping with stress like you used to.
An essential part of recovery is learning how to take care of your own needs as an individual. This means not taking on more than you can cope with, not sacrificing your personal needs for the wants of others, and taking time out when you are feeling the pressure.
We recommend having a regular inner dialogue with yourself, check you are not overly hungry or tired, how are you feeling emotionally and physically? Is there anything weighing on your mind that can be dealt with or shared with another person? Can you ask someone for help with preparations or with the children? Whatever your main concerns and fears are, it is best to share them and to ask for support. Don’t try to put on a brave face when you feel you are crumbling under the stress of it all.
It is also important to remember that it’s okay to say no. If you find yourself frequently saying yes to things that you do not want to do, or that would place you under additional pressure, now is the time to start saying “No”. You do not even have to explain yourself if you do not want to. Practice keeping things simple and in the day.
“My family are all heavy drinkers.”
This can be exceptionally difficult, especially if there is a lot of pressure for you to drink from family. You may feel frustrated that they do not understand or support your recovery. The truth is they do not have to understand why you are not drinking, and it is your personal responsibility to take care of your own recovery.
If your family are all drinking, we suggest placing a time limit on the amount of time that you spend with them; perhaps visit in the morning or at least before they start to become very drunk. There are many ways to stay sober. Plan time with sober friends or attend a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, yes there are meetings that are open on Christmas day.
It is a good idea to take your own non-alcoholic beverage with you when visiting heavy drinkers and if you can find a sober companion, this way you can ensure that you are in complete control of what you drink.
If you really feel unsafe, we suggest not visiting or leaving early. If they are drinking heavily, chances are they will be too concerned with their own enjoyment rather than worrying about yours.
How to enjoy your first staying sober at Christmas
The key to enjoying your first booze-free Christmas is planning. Yes, there will undoubtedly be some situations where you feel out of control or anxious; you can easily remove yourself from such situations. It’s okay to put your recovery first; in fact, it is vital that you do this.
By planning ahead, you are less likely to make bad decisions or do things that could put your sobriety at risk. We are not suggesting that you plan every minute of every day, that would be setting yourself up for failure. It’s impossible to predict every eventuality. Instead, try to let go of any expectations of what you think Christmas may be like, good or bad. Allow yourself to experience whatever comes your way and value the simple things that Christmas has to offer.
Remember that for every person that finds recovery, there is a first for experiencing everything sober whether it be your first day sober, your first party, your first death, your first date, and so on. All these firsts make you stronger and more prepared for the next one as you are able to learn from them.
Being sober and in recovery is a true blessing and something to be proud of. Not everyone who suffers from addiction finds recovery, and sadly for some, this will be their last Christmas ever.
For you, this can not only be your first Christmas sober, but it can be the first of many. Following simple suggestions, planning ahead and staying in contact with support and sober people can make your Christmas truly count.
Talking to someone who understands the situation is a good idea; at Rehab Guide, we are here if you need us. If you just need someone to talk to or if you want some advice on staying sober at Christmas, do not hesitate to get in touch.
We are waiting for your call 02072052845.