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December 3, 2020

The Non-Definitive Guide to doing the Holidays Sober.

Yes, Christmas is an amazing, magical time to be with family and friends. 

But, it can be a pretty stressful time too, especially for those who are sober—even more so for the newly-sober or people still struggling with recovery. 

Of course, things will be even more challenging this year with the added complication of COVID-19. I don’t even know what to say about that element, so I’m not going to; it’s just something else to deal with.

My point is that whether you’ve been sober for years or you’re only a few days or weeks into sobriety, it can be a hard time. Everywhere we turn, we are reminded how Christmas (all the holidays, really) is marketed with alcohol as an integral part of the festivities.

There are the predictable elements—making sure all the presents are bought, and the shopping is done—but also there are other factors, like going out for meals or parties and meeting up with friends and family, some of whom you might not see for the rest of the year.

It can be exhausting, and that is before we even talk about the not drinking part.

Whether it is your first Christmas without drinking or you’ve done a few, it can prove a bit of a challenge. 

This is not a definitive guide; it’s just a few things I’ve picked up along the way, and I hope they will help:

(Please let me know if you’ve got any other ideas that I can add to it!)

1. Only go to the events you really want to. 

(Probably much easier this year with all the tiers and restrictions!) 

It’s hard enough to psych yourself up for things you want to do. Don’t use your energy going to things you aren’t feeling up to. It will likely end badly or put you off going out to other events. It may seem scary to let other people down, but it might be better for you in the long run.

>> It’s not just you! 

Many people choose not to drink. It’s a struggle to stop, but you are not on your own, even when it feels like it.

2. Don’t be afraid to leave early.

You might have had a good time, you might not, but don’t feel you have to stay to the end. Leave the night on a high, and you’ll probably feel more up to another night out. Stretching it out could ruin it for you, and, to be honest, if everyone else is drinking, they might not even notice you go!

>> It’s not just you!  

Other people have struggles too. You might feel awkward, but they probably can’t see it, just like you can’t see their insecurities.

3. Have an escape plan. 

Like me, you might not want to make it common knowledge that you aren’t drinking in the beginning. I kept it private for a long time, so it could work for you to have a plan if things get to be too much. If you have a backup plan, you can get away when you need to.

>> It’s not just you!

Remember: you aren’t alone. It’s a hard fight, but other people are wanting to do it, are doing it, or have done it. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. Just keep going.

4. Have an excuse!

If you really want to go but don’t want to tell people the truth, afraid that it will be awkward, have an excuse ready. Maybe you’re on antibiotics? Maybe you’re in training for a marathon? Maybe you are driving? (Not that you need a reason.)

>> It’s not just you!

There are so many people out there in exactly the same place as you!

5. Remember.

When things are hard, remind yourself that you can drink, you’re just making a choice not to. When things get really hard, remind yourself why you made that choice. 

>> It’s not just you!

There are so many people out there in exactly the same place as you!

6. Connect.

Support groups might work, but they might not. You don’t have to meet people to have support, though. There are plenty of online groups you can join. Likewise, I found reading helpful. Other people’s experiences helped me remember that I wasn’t alone and that other people had walked the same path before me and survived. In fact, not only had they survived, but it was worth the struggle.

7. Enjoy it!

Honestly, you will probably still have a fab time. You’ll remember everything you say and everything you do. You don’t have to worry that you might have one too many and embarrass yourself—and when someone else does, you’ll remember that too!

I hope this helps, even just a little bit, I know that I felt nervous before my first couple of non-drinking events, and even now, I don’t choose to go to many. I’d rather do other things now, so they have to be good for me to go! 

Most of all, remember to be kind to yourselves, it’s a wonderful time, but it can be full of challenges. 

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