There is no other time of the year that has the capacity to fill us with a mixture of joy, happiness and absolute dread. Christmas and Thanksgiving can be laden with such massive expectations that we can end up worrying and whittling our way to the big day in a frantic hurry, chasing the perfect gift, the perfect turkey, the perfect decorations.
We flap around sleeping arrangements for visiting relatives, wondering where everyone is going to sleep and sit, and wonder just exactly how long they will stay. Of course we love our rellies, but being with them for extended periods of time when we don’t live with them anymore, can be stressful.
And what if they are big drinkers and you’ve been doing SO well on your sobriety journey? Thinking about what might happen could be a scary prospect.
- You’re not sure yet if you have the strength to be the only one at the dinner table with a glass of Nosecco or sparkling water. You’re not sure if you will have the confidence to stand up to that relative who you know will keep bugging you to drink.
- You’re not sure that you have the patience to stay calm in the face of drinking in-laws.
- You have no idea how to get everything ready without your usual Bailey’s, mulled wine, and champagne.
I know if you’ve been sober for a few months, you might be stressed about not knowing whether you will slip up. You might even be having a conversation with yourself right now about how “It’s the holidays, I’ll just drink until New Year and then stop again. I’m sure I will be fine”.
Without some thoughtful planning, your quest for the ‘perfect’ holiday season can overshadow the whole point of this time of the year. It can make things unbelievably stressful and before you know it you will wake up on New Years Day, nursing the hangover from hell and wondering just exactly where your great intentions went.
So from my heart to yours, here’s a few hints and tips to help you have the kind of Christmas you will want to remember forever.
1. Set Your Intentions
What exactly does this time of year mean to you? Yes, of course, it’s great to get together with loved ones and have a fun time but have you ever asked yourself whether you could still enjoy it just as much if you didn’t drink?
Is it really about how much money you can spend on loved ones or how perfectly the turkey was cooked? Or how much food was cooked? Is it really about excessive consumerism and once a year over-feeding, or is it a chance to spend some quality time with those you love?
What kind of Christmas do you really want this year? What about considering a different kind of Christmas – just because you’ve always done it a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to continue to stick to the same exhausting routines.
Without alcohol, these are wonderful times to spend some quality, crazy, fun time with those you love. Take a moment to think about witnessing the excitement of the little ones watching the lights being switched on or on Christmas Eve as they leave out a carrot for Rudolph. Or being able to see every expression on your kids faces as they open their gifts on Christmas morning. Or seeing your partners’ absolute delight at receiving exactly what they wanted.
Here’s a journal prompt to help you get clear about exactly the kind of holiday you want:
The most important thing to me at Christmas is…
2. Money, Money, Money
Consider making a donation to a charity. How about donating the amount of money you would usually spend on alcohol? How about not buying those unnecessary stocking fillers that will end up under the sofa, discarded or broken? You could suggest involving the whole family. Being together at this time of year is a wonderful time to be grateful for the roof over your head, when so many have none.
Please consider donating to Crisis, a UK charity which supports the homeless. CLICK HERE to donate.
3. Do Something New
Is there something you have always wanted to do, like have a no TV day? Or play board games all day? Or go for a walk. Or create a photo album or video? Or volunteer at a homeless shelter for a little while on Christmas Day? Better yet, ask your loved ones if they have any ideas. Or have a kids centred holiday where the children in the family decide what they want to do for a portion, or all, of the day? Get creative and you could make it a time to remember for all the right reasons.
4. Drinking Relatives
Unfortunately, many people see Christmas as a perfect opportunity to get totally smashed. They start out with Buck’s Fizz for breakfast, champagne, prosecco and wine with lunch and then Bailey’s, sherry and other stuff they never usually drink whilst slumped in front of the television. And of course, they want you to join in.
Staying sober will enable you to deal with anything that comes your way. If you adopt a nonchalant approach when you are challenged then, eventually, anyone who is trying to persuade you to drink will get bored from trying. Once they have had a few drinks they won’t remember you’re not joining them anyway. Here are 30 Ways to Deal With Alcohol Bullies
When anyone asks me why I’m not drinking I will say…
Having some alcohol free alternatives might be just what you need to dodge some of those difficult conversations. Having a glass of something that looks like alcohol should provide enough of a diversion to keep you safe from being poked at all day.
6. Be Proud of Your Sobriety
Just because the majority of society think that these holidays equal booze doesn’t mean you have to join in. Be proud of how well you have been doing and show all of your loved ones all of the wonderful gifts you have gained since quitting. Show them how happy you are, how much energy you have, how much time you can give everyone and leave them feeling heard and loved. Show them that it’s the best thing you have ever done by being a shining example of sobriety. Leave everyone wishing they had the same sparkle you do. Not putting poison in your body is nothing to be ashamed of.
7. Reflect and Renew
Staying sober over the holidays is a wonderful opportunity to spend some quiet time giving some thought to what you want the following year to be like. Do a review of the year, particularly if you gave up during it, and make a list of all of your accomplishments. Make a note of how much time and money you save if you’re not drinking and make a decision to do something wonderful and life affirming for yourself next year. Start planning for a future that excites you.
8. Plan an Escape
If it all gets too much, take a moment to think about how you can get out of the house just to clear your head. Can you take the kids to the park? Take some Christmas Cake to a neighbour who is alone? Have a cup of tea with the lovely elderly couple up the street whose children live abroad? Go for a walk alone (or take the dog) – everyone will survive without you for half an hour!
9. You Don’t Have To Do It All!
The holidays can be such a pressured time to get everything ‘perfect’, so you spend most of the day fussing around making sure everything is just so. Don’t forget, it’s your Christmas Day too. How about making a game of getting the table set by hiding some items around the house and set everyone off on a treasure hunt? For example, hide the spoons somewhere in the house and promise the finder a treat for getting them to the table. Get creative and you can involve the whole family, and have them help you without realising it!
10. Plan to Have a Wonderful Time
If this is your first sober Christmas, why not think of it as a chance to have the kind of magical time you’ve always wanted? Alcohol has a way of derailing all of our best intentions but staying sober gives you an opportunity to be truly mindful about how you want this holiday to be. Focussing on making wonderful memories for yourself and your family will give you such a huge sense of accomplishment and you will be so bustlingly proud of yourself as the New Year rings in that you will wonder why you ever thought it was going to be better with booze.
Whatever you do, I hope you have a wonderful time and that the coming year turns out to be your year to truly shine.
With love, always, Jules xxx
P.S. If you found these tips useful you can get more help here.