The holidays can be a difficult time if you are sober curious, newly sober, you are in recovery, you are struggling with “controlling your drinking” or you have chosen to no longer drink alcohol.
Yes that is kind of all saying the same thing. Basically - if you don’t want to be drinking anymore, the holidays can be very challenging.
Alcohol is everywhere, everyday. This is nothing new. Every social situation it is encouraged, but for whatever reason, the holidays can create that added pressure. It also becomes a time where you can drink any amount, at any time #becauseitstheholidays. I’ve always said (and will always say) people can choose to stop drinking for any number of reasons. It can be hard for people to even contemplate sober curiosity because it is met with skepticism or judgement. “Oh they aren’t drinking - they must have a problem.” When the truth of the matter might be that their parent had Alcohol Use Disorder their entire lives and they don’t want to walk the same path. Or their spouse is struggling and they are doing it in support of them. Or it is a health choice. Or Or Or.. There are TONS of reasons, none of which are anyones business. A choice that is being made out of strength should not be met with resistance. Something I heavily focus on is that other peoples opinions of me aren’t any of my business. What people feel about my choice not to drink is a reflection of them, not a reflection of me. Judgment is scary and I’d be lying if I said it never pops into my head, but it never ever makes me want to drink. Quite the opposite actually.
The holidays mean family get togethers, work events, a lot of atmospheres where alcohol will be present. We tend to get SO hyper focused on what people will think about the fact that we aren’t drinking, that we lose sight of the fact that how we feel about ourselves is where our focus should be.
You’ll see a common theme on my pages - I am all about shifting fear into curiousity instead.
Here are a few tips or tricks to help you through these booze-infused social gatherings:
Fear into curiousity. We’ve experienced holidays where we’ve drank, but have we ever given ourselves the opportunity to see what they are like without alcohol? Without hangovers? Imagine what it will feel like waking up without the hangover and being truly present to soak in the holidays with your family, friends or loved ones. You won’t miss the moments because you are making a drink, thinking about your next drink, or you are not feeling so great because of your last drink. Truly take a moment to think about the amount of mental space that will become available because you aren’t focused on alcohol. And think about where you can shift that focus instead - family, friends, loved ones, or giving yourself the self care and self love you haven’t made time for.
VISUALIZE IT - Your brain can’t tell the difference between a strong visualization and reality. When it comes to the parties or events -think about the environment, who is going to be there, what the music will be like. In years past, you may have had drinks at these functions, therefore even though you are consciously choosing not to drink - your subconscious will kick in and be asking "wheres the drink" because that is the pattern that has been programmed. You can interrupt those neural pathways by making different choices, think about what you will order instead of that drink. Know that the thought may pop up, but thoughts are things and you have the power to choose. A craving will only last 15-20 minutes, you can push through it. Visualize and allow yourself to truly feel how great it will be waking up with 0 regret. I promise, years later and it still never gets old. In fact, not once have I woke up and thought - dang I wish I drank last night.
Have your response ready when someone asks what you’d like to drink. Whether or not you tell people the actual reason is besides the point. Your comfort is key here. If you aren’t ready to talk about why you aren’t drinking - DON’T. You can use any number of reasons - you are driving, you are on medication, you are doing a 30 day challenge, you took a break and realized you loved it.. if you answer with confidence it will keep the conversation rolling. Uncertainty creates space for someone to pressure or encourage you to drink, and they may have no idea that you are struggling or you are in recovery. I have heard just about everything when I say I don't drink (you don't drink, what happened? Oh you must have a problem, are you sure you don’t want just one, you must be boring, you must hate drunk people, blah blah) and I take nothing personally. The more confident I have grown, the less resistance I am met with. You may not have that comfort and confidence in the early days and that is perfectly okay - just have your response ready and the conversation will move ahead.
Have a drink in your hand. Preferably without alcohol but hey, if you do decide to drink, you can learn from it. Give yourself grace. If you have something in your hand, you are a lot less likely to have someone bring you a drink or have them ask what you want to drink. Again, people only know what we show them, they may have no idea where you are at on your non drinking journey. (If they do know you are choosing to not drink and they encourage you “to just have one” that is an entirely different conversation, and I would not be surrounding myself with them. Boundaries).
SAY NO - if you genuinely do not feel comfortable going somewhere, say no. Saying no is just as much of a commitment as saying yes. You are allowed to prioritize yourself. This is self awareness and knowing what is good for you and what puts you at risk. You won’t always have to skip events, you will grow more comfortable over time, but if this is new and fresh and you don’t feel right about doing something - don’t do it. Listen to your intuition - always. Again, please don’t think you’ll never have fun again or you’ll never be able to do the things you used to, you will. Or maybe you won’t be interested in doing those things anymore and that is okay too. Growth is a beautiful thing.
If you have social anxiety and you are attending a restaurant or event space - cruise the menu prior. See if they have any cocktails or non alcoholic options available. If not - mixing juice with soda is always an option or there are typically virgin drinks offered. If you are going to someones house, bring some of your favourite non alcoholic beverages with you so you don’t have to worry about what you’ll have available to you. **Mocktails or NA versions of drinks CAN be triggering, so I would try those with caution (beforehand) and see how you feel. If in ANY way a mocktail or NA drink creates a craving, ditch it. I like to drink mocktails that don’t include NA liquor, so a blend of juices or simple syrup, fruit and soda. I like to keep it simple.
If you feel overwhelmed by hosting a family get together - delegate. Don’t think you have to do everything on your own. If you are not up to the task - refer to #5.
If you find yourself lonely or grieving over the holidays, reach out for support. Call a friend or family member and let them know how you are feeling. OR if you don’t feel comfortable or understood, there are SO many incredible private support communities online. You are NEVER alone. You may FEEL alone, but you are not. REACH OUT. Also, I didn’t believe it until I experienced it but I was much better able to process my grief (when my mom passed) with a clear mind. It was not easy, but “healing through feeling” is an expression for a reason.
Give yourself space. If you are overwhelmed by family or certain circumstances, allow yourself to leave for 5-15 minutes (however long you need). Go for a walk. Ground yourself with a podcast. Quickly post or scroll a group. Load your phone with positive affirmations and take a peak, it is a great pick me up!
Have an exit plan. Drive - so you can leave at any point. If you don’t drive, have an uber or taxi number on hand. Don’t feel obligated to stay anywhere or do anything - ditch the people pleasing and put yourself first.
I could go on and on but I think this is a good place to start. When we were kids we felt the pure joy of the holidays - alcohol had nothing to do with it. I know a lot has changed since then and life happens. I get it. It is important to remember if we are numbing the bad - we are also numbing the good. Give yourself a chance to experience the holidays clear minded and being fully present.
There are some AMAZING groups online, and they are a great space to find community and comfort during the holidays.
I just started hosting meetings on https://www.recoveredlife.us/find-your-group and the first 30 days are FREE. There are multiple zoom meetings available throughout the week, different coaches and different topics - something for everyone. So if you are looking for company and support - look no further.
I host Tuesday nights at 8pm est (focused on mindset) and then I will be doing a recovery check-in meeting Thursday mornings at 9am est where we can share our breakdowns and breakthroughs.
As always you can book a free discovery here!
No matter where you are at - please know you can do it. December was the first month I chose sobriety and it was the most empowering realization to know I didn’t need alcohol - I just needed me.