For people overcoming drug or alcohol addiction, or wanting to reduce their alcohol intake, Christmas can be a challenge. Alcohol advertising is everywhere: it’s there when you visit shops, on TV and plastered in leaflets and magazines.
Offer to be the designated driver if you’re going out with a group of friends. This means you can’t drink and gives you focus in that you’re responsible for others getting home. Your friends or colleagues will thank you for it.
If you’re trying to steer clear of alcohol, read our tips to help you enjoy a sober Christmas. You can also contact us for any advice regarding sobriety during the Christmas period.
Prepare for Potential Triggers
The festive season, despite being a joyous time for many, is also a trigger for stress: family gatherings, increased spending on presents and the expectation to have a good time often push people to alcohol to help them relax.
Many families love coming together at Christmas, but for some, it can be tricky. Politely decline invites if you know there will inevitably be a clash of opinions, or if your family are heavy drinkers or they’re unsupportive of your sobriety. Finding yourself in the middle of a stressful situation, such as a family argument, or a packed social calendar can be a trigger for drinking.
It’s important you have a plan in place to help you cope with triggers. Don’t think of ways to cope at the last minute, when you’re in the moment. Think of scenarios that may lead you to drink, and layout tools to help you.
Find alternative stress-busting activities, rather than alcohol, to help you feel calm. Try meditation, pilates or yoga to relax your mind, and for an endorphin release, a quick run or walk outdoors can work wonders. You can download a calming app to your phone, plug it in and listen to soothing music or motivational talks when you feel stress building.
Christmas doesn’t have to be expensive, and you don’t have to buy costly presents if you’re watching your pennies. Agree on how much to spend on presents, stick to it, and tell your friends and family to do the same. This will avoid buying expensive presents, reducing expectations and stress, therefore minimising the risk of drinking.
If you’re a recovering alcoholic, continue attending your local alcohol recovery support group over the festive period to reduce your stress levels and get valuable support. You could even attend a support group every day if you think it’ll do you good.
Try to avoid visiting places that may trigger you to drink, for example, your old favourites such as pubs, bars or restaurants, and organise meet-ups in new and unfamiliar places.
Give Yourself Permission to Say No
Christmas is a packed time of year, full of parties and gatherings, with alcohol flowing. Allow yourself to turn down invites if you’ll find it hard to stay sober. Social events at Christmas tend to be in pubs, restaurants…basically anywhere that serves alcohol so it’s hard to avoid.
Suggest alternative venues for Christmas meet-ups, ones that aren’t centred around alcohol. Why not host a gathering at your house or a wintery walk with a picnic?
It’s likely that only your close friends and family know you’re avoiding alcohol, but it’s a good idea to tell colleagues and casual friends. Confiding in them can stop you from feeling awkward when you turn down alcohol.
If you know that a party will involve lots of alcohol, stay at home. Some people won’t understand or be considerate of the fact that you don’t want to drink, so if you feel pressure just politely decline their invitation.
Bring a Sober Friend to Parties
Remember, not everyone enjoys drinking and some people prefer to stay sober. Invite a sober friend to your Christmas gatherings as a plus one.
Knowing that you’re with someone in the same boat will make you feel less alone, and give you motivation and support to stay sober. And think how much fresher you’ll feel the next morning! By having the support of another sober friend, people are likely to accept the fact you’re not drinking.
If you do notice people drinking at Christmas gatherings, not everyone is overindulging – some may just be having one, and others may be drinking non-alcoholic beer or wine.
Drink Tempting Alcohol-free Mocktails
Non-alcoholic drinks don’t have to be boring. If you’re hosting your own party, serve colourful alcohol-free cocktails made with fresh juice and purees. Get creative, adding spices, citrus and whole fruit. Or make a festive fruit punch, such as non-alcoholic mulled wine for the taste of Christmas.
You’re free to take your own drinks to parties. Make them at home, and transport them in a sealed container. You could even take ingredients with you, and offer to be the mocktail maker at parties, dazzling guests with your alcohol-free concoctions. Supermarkets also sell a wide range of ready-made mocktails that are ideal for taking to gatherings.
Attend Alcohol Recovery Meetings in your Area
If you’re recovering from alcohol addiction, it’s likely you already attend alcohol support meetings such as those run by AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or your local authority. Make sure you stick to these and attend them over the festive period.
You may need extra support at this time of year, so visit as many meetings as you can, even increasing your attendance over Christmas to get the support you need. Staying sober after alcohol rehab treatment is a huge achievement, particularly at Christmas.
You’ll be surprised at the number of people who attend support groups over the festive season but they are just like you, people who find Christmas a very challenging time. Support meetings are a real motivator, and chatting with others in the same boat will make you feel less alone. You can also call the alcohol support helplines to get free advice, such as ours at Action Rehab. Make sure you have the number saved in your phone so you can call when you need to – you can call ours on 0151 268 6992.
Call friends and family if you’re struggling to chat through any concerns. Ask a few trusted friends to support you over the festive season, check in on you, and act as motivators.