My tips for an alcohol free Christmas (or even New Year...?)
The following tips are dedicated to those people who have become alcohol free after a long wrestle with themselves about their drinking habits. But they are hopefully also useful if you want to take a dip in the AF universe.
Tip 1: Prepare a ready answer for why you are not drinking at the moment for those inevitable pesky questions. My personal favourite is “I don't drink anymore as I got too good at it” closely followed by the white lie “I’m on meds where I can’t drink or else my brain falls out, yeah?!”.
Tip 2: Find an AF substitute (obvs) for your beer/wine/fizz if it’s your first few months. But know that you will eventually just see what you drink as a means to hydration rather than a way to join in or change your mood. It sounds boring but sparkling water or diet tonic water/soda can be enough of a fizzy kick to make it feel like a party. Especially if you make it in a nice glass with ice/lemon/a forest of mint and botanicals or whatever. The nice glass part is important so you feel you are treating yourself in the early days imho.
Tip 3: Know from someone who has been there - it’s not just about willpower and giving something up. Plan little things that you enjoy an can look forward so you can focus your attention away from the pressures of drinking. And do this regularly. After 1.5 years I still do this. The more frequently you practice finding calm, fun and relaxation elsewhere, the less you are tempted to turn to alcohol to fulfill this in my experience . Simple things like a daytime relaxing bath, time out having your favourite coffee & cake, a night in to catch up on your fave boxset, doing something creative or phoning your bestie can be rewarding as well as a lifeline when you are worrying about temptation.
Tip 4: Plan ahead for that time of day or event when you feel most tempted to pour a drink. If you can't take yourself physically out of the situation (e.g. Christmas with the family makes it hard to disappear for a walk/hike/jog), then create a little distance by switching up your routine. Sit in a different seat in the evening, eat an earlier dinner, have an early night or start a new hobby with all the time you are gaining from not drinking.
Tip 5: Remember: if you have a false start, do not give up. Alcohol is an addictive substance, a drug, and it is all the more difficult to turn our back on it (or overusing it) as it has been engrained in our society for millennia. False starts provide learning, learning can help you succeed. People have different trigger, stress, FOMO, time of day, pain and sadness and even happiness and you will quickly learn yours and adapt with some effort.
Tip 6: Most important! Write down and celebrate all your AF milestones! 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, first dinner out, first trip away, first family occasion etc, Keep these in a notebook or share on social media if you are brave enough. Scroll or read these before any approaching any big day and appreciate how far you have come. You can handle Xmas sober AF!
Tip 7: Find a sober AF buddy. Someone in a similar boat or who may be further down the line of establishing a life without relying on alcohol. Talk to them, and listen. Coach each other and you will soon realise you are never alone. If you are alone in your social circle, search for and join online groups such as 'The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober' on Facebook and follow @Soberistas or @OneYearNoBeer. Plenty of others exist for both moderators and those seeking sobriety if you search #soberAF #AF #soberlife on all platforms.
Tip 8: Identify something you care about more than your own stress. For me this was the realisation that I could have more in my life AF than if I continued drinking alcohol. More relaxation, more personal resournces, more time, more peace, more joy, more acceptance, more laughter and more confidence.
Wishing you all the best this Christmas Day and a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Most of us have preconceptions about what alcoholism and addiction looks like. However, if you are concerned about addiction to alcohol then please check out these links regardless
or get in touch with your GP.