When I first got sober, I always thought the hardest part would be hanging out with my old friends that still drank and pretending I was still the same person, just sober. However, I never considered what it would be like to have to survive the holidays without a drink in my hand. In all honesty, I did everything with a drink in my hand for years. I was having to relearn how to do all the things in my life chugging water instead of vodka, but somehow the holidays seemed harder than some other things in my life. I learned how to enjoy snowboarding, trivia nights and live music without drinking, but surviving my family and all the stress that the holidays brought was a more arduous task.
Going to Parties
With the holidays comes many different party invitations. Keep in mind that you do not have to accept every invitation that you get — this even applies to your work’s holiday party. If you know that there is going to be excessive amounts of alcohol, or you have been to that host’s parties in the past and know their get-togethers tend to become a drunken mess, it is best to avoid them.
If you do chose to attend a few of the festive gatherings, come prepared. Most hosts will have non-alcoholic offerings, but walking in with your personal coffee mug or a bottle of kombucha is typically socially acceptable — especially if other attendees know that you don’t drink. Having something in your hands will give you something to do with your hands and will deter from others offering you boozy holiday cocktails. If someone does offer you something to drink, I’ve found that the best response is just a “no, thanks” without any further explanation. When you say “no, thanks. I don’t drink,” it can lead to a string of questions and explanations that you don’t owe to anyone, not even the host.
One of the most valuable lessons that I learned from attending parties where there would be alcohol present was to always have an out. Go to the party prepared with a reason for why you may need to leave early and kindly excuse yourself. Additionally, don’t carpool. Having your own way home, whether it is your own car, the city bus or taxi, ensures that you have a way to leave the party in the event that you become uncomfortable. You don’t want to have to be responsible for others that may want to stay longer or get stuck there for hours longer than you anticipated attending.
Spending It Alone
You don’t have to feel like you need to be social for the holidays. If going out into the world full of joy, cheer and Christmas lights feels like too much to handle, then just stay home. Take a few days for yourself and a chance to practice some self-care. This should go without saying, but first off, get any and all booze out of the house. Give it away to a friend, dump it down the sink, or throw it in a dumpster. Get rid of it.
Step two, find a way to relax. Whether it is through meditation, drawing yourself a bath or cooking a good meal, take some time to slow down and step away from the holiday bustle. Step three, get some exercise. Moving your body releases tons of good endorphins and feel-good hormones that will help to get you through the holidays and stay sober without having to alter your mental state with drugs or alcohol.
It feels like everywhere you turn, marketing is trying to sell you a stiff drink for the holidays. There are billboards, subway posters, recipes in your social media feed — you can’t escape it. Try putting on your blinders to the marketing attempts to lure you back to the bottle.
Looking back at when I used to drink, I cringe thinking about the amount of money that I have spent on booze. The cost of my addiction surprises me that I didn’t have to declare bankruptcy before getting sober. If you think about it sensibly, spending $10 a day on alcohol equates to $3,650 a year. That money now goes to buying really nice gifts for my family members and enabling me to afford to travel to see them for the holidays.
It might not feel like it in the moment, but you will be thankful that you stayed sober through all of the holiday events. If you tend to battle with depression or commonly get the blues in the winter months, drinking your woes away may seem like a great way to numb the pain, but it will only send you deeper down that dark hole. Create new traditions for yourself that celebrate you, your family and your new sober life, rather than mourning your drinking life. I urge you to go into this holiday season remembering it is the season for gratitude and giving.