12 Tips for a Sober Christmas
Once you have seriously made the decision to aim for sobriety, you will face many challenges which could be cravings on a daily basis and there are many obvious things that are recommended such as get plenty of exercise, stay away from temptation, eat well etc. which I absolutely agree with, to keep you occupied. But at Christmas time this is enhanced like on steroids!
Regardless of your “level and status” as a moderate, heavy drinker or alcoholic, this is an epic challenge not to be underestimated, not least because society is keen to push Christmas alcohol on us wherever we go.
Whilst every day is an achievement, Christmas, like the first 30 days is critical to reaching the ultimate goal of continued sobriety, so I have compiled the following tips, which are tried and tested (by me anyway) to help get you to get through unscathed and believe me, if you can crack it then you are well on the way to continued sobriety and the benefits that come with it.
One word of warning though. You must want to quit for you as well as for the benefit of others:
- Start thinking now (early December)- Plan:
Put some serious time aside with pen and paper (old school) and write down concerns, ideas, dates for works dinners etc. No one is saying you must stick to it exactly, but it will enhance focus in your mind.
Obviously, it is best to do this early on as you may have a stressful or difficult time over the next Month or so. Think about regular commitments you can reduce or pass over.
Plan in what drinks you can take to a house party and what daily self-care you can do and think of who you can call and talk to if you feel overwhelmed. Write all thoughts down no matter how silly, including events you could attend that doesn’t remotely involve alcohol.
- Understand the “real” reason you want to quit and create an image of that both in your mind and reality:
Might sound obvious like, “because if I don’t stop drinking, I am going to lose everything or lose my job and the missus is going to do one” but dig deeper than that and consider the knock-on effect. Here is an example of mine (there can be more than one): I had narrowly kept my job and had drove drunk on several occasions.
1st of all if I lost my job that is a big enough blow but what if I had run over an innocent child and been sent to prison. Now I’m thinking about talking to my kids through bars or a glass window on the telephone, and Daddy isn’t around to take care of us now we live in a bedsit.
It came down to me wanting to keep my family and I safe, so whilst I had this vision in my head of how close I had been to the biggest of mistakes, I also made sure I had a picture as a screen saver on my phone so I could look at their beautiful faces and remind myself why I am doing this, for us all.
- Tell your friends, family and acquaintances you are taking a break from the sauce (even at Christmas) and surround yourself with believers:
They need not know you have a drink problem; indeed, you might not and just want to see if you can do it. Nevertheless, it is imperative that you have some form of excuse for not going to places that will trigger you to down alcohol and it may be best to stay away.
Quite frankly, those who care about you or understand you will say, good for you (whilst probably thinking “thank god for that, he needs a break”).
Whilst it is best to avoid any social gatherings if possible where you know drinking is the main event, I found if people know you are taking a break, they would be less pushy and if you feel OK with it, you have the option to go.
But, always listen to yourself and if you start thinking “ah well I’m here now may as well have a pint”, or someone else says this to you, then get the hell out of Dodge pronto (and see next point).
- Avoid having a party at home:
Obviously, this doesn’t have to include Christmas day and visits from people who don’t drink gallons, but when you are at someone else’s place you can escape.
The last thing you need is lots of friends coming around, bringing booze and you must wait before they leave without politely telling them to get out. Your home should be a safe place for you and your serine non-drinking self not a self-destruct into drinking.
- Find somewhere where you can relieve tension, I mean really let go:
This is going to be one of the hardest things you have done but when you achieve it, I guarantee its worth every bit of effort. Tensions will overflow and you will be annoyed.
Not only because you may have let this go on and now your suffering, but everyone else is out, your tired, you can’t concentrate on smiling because you are trying so hard not to think about alcohol but all you can think about is alcohol, the weather is cold & wet, the neighbours across the road keep parking that car outside my house!
You are likely to be a bit fiery! Normally, you might have had alcohol but now what do you do? What you most definitely do is find somewhere where you can let rip, shout, swear, and release all that tension out of you and take some deep breaths.
You might have a punching bag you can knock the hell out of or walk into the middle of nowhere or have a room in the house with soundproof walls (should I be worried?).
The message is: Do not under any circumstances bottle it up (pardon the pun).
6. Read all the literature on the web and social media and everywhere else:
Whether it be AA, books on Sobriety, Sober warriors on Instagram or reading blog posts like mine, get stuck into them as they will not only give you a better understanding of why you are doing what you are doing, but also the encouragement to carry on knowing you are certainly not alone.
I personally had the 12 steps to recovery (AA) on audio and would listen in the car, but at the same time I have also surfed the web and read books. For many people there is one way that suits them, but for me, I have drawn on all my experiences and picked the best out of them to suit my needs and it has worked, but as I have said before, no persons journey to sobriety is the same.
7. Find a substitute tipple that you like:
Extremely important at Christmas time as you will find it helps with cravings, and believe me, you are likely to drink gallons of whatever it is. Now you have banished the booze your brain will be like “where’s my fix I need to substitute… Help” so perhaps you have something in mind but if not, you need to.
Me, I turned to low calorie (had to be) tonic and I am not talking a bit here and there, I am talking gallons of the stuff (I have since become quite a connoisseur) and whilst all the quinine might not be as good as water for your health, at least it is better than alcohol and it kept away the mozzies (quinine, India, soldiers, Malaria)!
For the first 30 days and onward actually, you need something to quench your thirst and get you by and something fizzy is a good option. Go diet though because sugar, like it or not, is another sly one!
8. Quitting alcohol must be your top goal and you must prioritise staying calm:
But staying calm is difficult for emotional folk like us and when we are stressed it will increase our desire to get messed up. So, take yourself away from situations and keep telling yourself it is imperative that you stay calm. Also, it might be that you were on a diet or trying to cut down on salt or sugar or whatever.
This is fine and it is normal to think “right I’m kicking the booze and I’m going be healthy” but honestly, just like Rome, it can’t be done in a day and certainly not all at once, it’s one step at a time and your sobriety has to be a priority over everything. Nailing the not drinking and being comfortable with that will be enough of a boost to crack on with the other stuff but for now, let it tick along.
9. If you can, don’t listen to tunes that remind you of drinking for a while, if it makes you want to drink:
An odd one I know but the key here is the last part “if it makes you want to drink”. When you were drinking, drunk or getting ready to drink more and go out on the lash, you might have put some music on to “get you in the mood”.
For me dance music was always associated with being drunk or high and if I was driving down the road and it came on or I put it on, I would reminisce about what I was missing, then I’d start thinking about going out or god forbid back to Ibiza…. then before you know it “oh no I can’t do that again, maybe I will cut down or have one last blow out aargh”!
It’s our minds playing a trick on us so be vigilant. What I have now is far greater I promise, and 9 Months on I can listen to what I like and if it reminds of the laughs and crazy stuff that’s good but half the time, It’s all a blur anyway because I just happened to be away with the fairies!
10. Try and avoid sweets, but if you must, then you must (could be controversial this) and at Christmas time, just do it:
As mentioned above it’s nice to transform your whole self if that’s your bag and I applaud you, but I would be driving down the motorway thinking about not thinking about alcohol (which is basically thinking about alcohol) and craving something, and I worked out that I would normally need a bag of fizzy wine gums (ironically).
Yes, I would do in the whole bag but hey, it stopped me getting a bottle of wine (which incidentally you can buy from motorway services these day’s). It didn’t last forever, and I still like sweets but now I am in control and to be honest we need to be conscious of this because sugar as I’ve mentioned before somewhere, is sly. Chocolate is a whole different story, but it is Christmas and if it keeps you off the booze over the silly season then just do it!
11. Reward yourself with a gift at milestones
Have you ever thought to yourself, ooh I’d love a coffee machine, a little Nespresso to have a proper coffee at home?
I had, but my thinking space was usually taken up by booze, so it never materialised. Set yourself a realistic target of 30 days, 1 week or 3 hours or whatever suits and then reward yourself. Let’s face it, you would have only wasted the money in any case! I got the Nespresso after a week and felt a real sense of achievement in doing so, in fact I might be due an upgrade?
12. Get rid of the booze in the house.
Straight forward enough and although obvious it’s an easy trap to fall into, especially at Christmas for example, even if it’s stuff you wouldn’t normally go for.
Speak with your wife, husband or other and agree to get rid of it. It’s important to have your partner or friend on board with this and I’m not suggesting that you pour it down the sink, but you could put it at a friend’s house or give them it for a while to pacify your other half.
For example, my wife likes the occasional glass of wine or gin and has some expensive nice stuff. She’s one of the sensible ones so I didn’t feel it fair to get rid of her stuff entirely and I am now ok with it, albeit in a designated place and not hidden in the cupboard under the stairs!
In summary, these are just some of the tips to assist you in your quest but please read my other material for inspiration or even to see what not to do.
Remember alcohol is cunning and sly and will go for you when you are down, so if that time comes, pour yourself a tonic (on its own obvs), look at that picture of the good times and read for some inspiration. If that fails, go to your place of expression and shout like hell “I can do this” because if I can, you can!