Sober Christmas survival guide

 

With less than four weeks to go before the main event, Christmastime usually kicks off the “can I moderate” conundrum for many newly-sober people.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll know moderation’s impossible. I love this time of year and I know it’s far better to be sober and remembering it all, rather than suffering the mental torture of when you’ll “allow” yourself to drink mulled wine.

I used to tell myself I wasn’t an alcoholic because I didn’t pour vodka on my cornflakes. But yet, here I am seeing vodka being promoted as a nutritious breakfast accompaniment. The brand states that it’s healthy due its live cultures, but cites rum and vodka as key ingredients. WTF is up with that?

Christmas is the time of year where drinks companies up their advertising budget to the maximum. Even breakfast isn’t safe here in the UK this Autumn: yogurts are getting laced with rum and other spirits.

It can feel like you’re surrounded by booze and as someone who’s already survived a sober Christmas, here are a few tips to get you started on a few social situations:

 

Weeks 1-3 of December: The party weeks

Office/Friends parties

Sobriety fact: You’ll have bags more energy than you ever did when you were drinking.

On average, I get invited to 10 parties each December. When I was drinking, I would RSVP “yes” to all 10 but would only attend 5 because of how rotten I felt after the previous party. No one can party through 5 hangovers in a week.

Now I’m sober, I know I have the energy to attend all 10. I’m hangover free, clear-headed and sparkly. But I only RSVP “yes” to 5. Why? Because I would rather be attending the ones that matter most to me.

During my drinking days I didn’t care who the other guests were as the main focus was the booze. I would rather focus my energy into quality time into the friends and colleagues that I had an enjoyable relationship with. I’m better company,I don’t bail on people and I’ve stopped subjecting curators at work to my tone-deaf karaoke. Easy.

Week 3-4 of December: Christmas Day planning

What to drink?

Stock up on your favourite alcohol-free drinks but also treat yourself to new ones too. I find having something different to try makes me appreciate it more.

My personal favourite suggestions:

Swap Buck’s Fizz for Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference AF wine (click here), mixed with a dash of OJ.

Make your own mulled wine. Pre-packaged mulled wine is often packed with added sugars. Pick a decent AF red wine and brew it with spices, honey and orange peel.

Make your own non-alcoholic eggnog (click here). Use this recipe but omit the rum in favour of Rumish (a newly released alcohol-free rum drink). I haven’t tried this one yet so keep an eye on my Instagram page for a better review!

Not a fan of alcohol-free wines or beers? That’s cool. Why not try a Christmassy hot brew?! I recommend:

Little’s Christmas Spirit

Teapigs Spiced Winter

Teapigs Glühwein

Last year, I drank cranberry juice mixed with ice cold sparkling water with my Christmas dinner. I can assure you that sparkling water is underrated!

Week 4 of December: Christmas week

What to eat?

Controversial suggestion: Don’t go eating a jar of brandy butter.

I avoid any alcohol-containing produce. I know many sober people who say that liqueur chocolates are fine cause “they won’t get you drunk”. But I know that if was to consume even a few units of brandy via a boozy Christmas pud’ then that’d escalate to a relapse.

I don’t cook food in wine or add spirits to my desserts anymore. I don’t need the added stress of being around/using open bottles of wine.

If you’re eating out, maybe think twice before you assume that the chefs cook off all the alcohol in their dishes. They don’t: (click here, here and here). Don’t feel embarrassed by asking a restaurant which meals were cooked in wine.

I adopt the same approach to eating as I do drinking: seek out the “alcohol free”. For Christmas puddings, my favourites are Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, and Waitrose. With the latter, double check their labels as lots of Waitrose desserts use alcohol in their recipes.

Posh mince pies are sometimes laced with booze. Most pre-packaged ones don’t contain alcohol anyway but Bread Ahead in Borough Market sell the best (alcohol-free) mince pies I’ve ever tasted.

I’m stressed. I don’t think I can go a week without booze.

I knew for years that I didn’t use alcohol like other people. I saw the festive holidays as an excuse to get trashed at every opportunity. For a few years I managed to reign in this habit by volunteering at a homeless shelter during Christmas. I wasn’t selfish when I did this- I genuinely spent time there helping people. But as I wasn’t allowed alcohol during my night/day shifts, my mind was freed up from thinking about booze.

Other free ways to ease stress include: having a cup of tea with your neighbour, taking a dog for a walk or sitting in a library.

Also: SELF CARE. If you’re feeling anxious, stressed or tired then I’m afraid alcohol will not ease those feelings. If you need to cancel plans and stay indoors to escape boozy confrontations, then don’t feel guilty about it. I do however, recommend getting lost in woodland, parks and outdoor spaces if you need to relax. Thinking of the HALT acronym can help in these instances, you’re more likely to give into a craving if you’re:

HUNGRY
ANGRY
LONELY
TIRED

So keep that in mind and look after yourself.  If avoiding the HALT situation means curling up on your sofa, wearing flannel pyjamas and watching Bridget Jones then succumb to it.

It’s Christmas. Can I have one drink?

We both know one drink is too many and 100 won’t be enough.

Speaking from experience: re-gift any boozy presents you may receive at the soonest opportunity. I got given a bottle of fancy wine last year and it played havoc on my mind for days. Just get rid of it. Easy.

Begin the day with a clear head. Being surrounded in nature has been proven to have a calming effect on the mind. Combine that with some exercise-induced endorphins and your Christmas is off to a winning start.

If you need another incentive: parkrun host an exclusive 5k run on Christmas day. It’s free and all the family can join in (unless you’d rather escape them for some precious alone time. That’s fine too). Find your nearest event here: Parkrun UK.

Focus on the food, the films and whichever of your loved ones you’ve decided to spend the day with.

Speaking from experience: re-gift any boozy presents you may receive at the soonest opportunity. I got given a bottle of fancy wine last year and it played havoc on my mind for days. Just get rid of it. Easy.

Stay strong in the knowledge that you can definitely get through this! Join an online sober support group now and lean on them if you’re feeling particularly wobbly.

But if I did a sober Christmas, then you definitely can!

Christmas Eve ’18 at the Fenchurch Restaurant. They do fantastic mocktails here but you’re more likely to find me glugging their impressive tea range.

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