I love the holiday season. From early September, when I am ready to celebrate Halloween without drinking, to New Year’s Day, when I am thrilled to be waking up without a post-blackout hangover, the holiday season is filled with lots of joyous occasions with family and booze-free fun with friends. But this was not always the case when I was trying to get and stay sober. For many of us, quitting alcohol is the right decision—whether it’s due to an unhealthy relationship with alcohol or simply because you can’t handle the hangovers anymore. But knowing that something is right for us doesn’t mean that other people will understand. And it also doesn’t mean that we will be successful with our goal to stop drinking 100% of the time.
Things like managing alcohol cravings and figuring out how to make alcohol-free holiday traditions can be difficult, whether this is your first holiday season without alcohol or your sixth (like me!). But thankfully, there are some tips that you can use in order to get and stay sober during the holidays this year. Keep reading for our best advice on spending this holiday season the way that you want to: enjoying your booze-free life.
1. Make a Plan for Family Gatherings
Family gatherings can be difficult for people who are trying to quit drinking or stay sober. That’s why it’s important to have strategies for dealing with family during this season and making a plan for what you will do when you gather together. For me personally, my plan always includes two things: 1. A fellow alcohol-free friend or my partner, either with me at the family gathering or on my speed dial so that I can call them in case I need some extra support. 2. A ready-to-go excuse for when I will be leaving, typically by a certain time of night when I know that the booze is going to start flowing a bit quicker. So think about what your family gathering are typically like and what you need to do in order to stay sober throughout the event.
2. Know What to Expect at Parties
Parties during the holidays can be plenty, even in the time of COVID. But if you are trying to get or stay sober during this time of year, parties can also be a bit weird and awkward. They are likely places where you would have typically had quite a few cocktails yourself, so what do you do now? I recommend preparing yourself mentally before you go. For one, you’re probably going to get asked lots of questions at holiday events after people find out you’re not drinking (whether just for tonight or for good). Secondly, a lot of parties don’t have booze-free options (see tip #3!), so I suggest bringing your own. And third, just as with family gatherings (see tip #1!), you’ll want to make a plan for the party based on the type of gatherings, the people you know who will be there, and what your own limitations and boundaries are. For me, setting a time that I’d ideally want to leave the party is the best way to go.
3. Make Yourself a Booze-Free Cocktail
We all know that the holidays are full of boozy drinks and many, many cocktails at all of those gatherings. But thankfully, you don’t always have to say “no” to a holiday cocktail. Instead, say a big “YES” to all of the delicious booze-free holiday options available at Curious Elixirs. There are many different options available to you and your taste buds. Whether you’re into a pomegranate-infused alcohol-free version of the Negroni or crave the flavors of an Old Fashioned combined with cherry and chocolate, there is definitely something here for you—and for your loved ones, if you want to share.
4. Figure Out How to Handle Your Urges
One of the most difficult things about quitting alcohol, for some of us, is the alcohol cravings. It can be particularly difficult during the holiday season when you see friends and family seemingly having lots of boozy fun. But the truth is that, if you are rethinking your relationship with alcohol, there’s a good reason for that. So the first thing I’d suggest is writing down your reason (or several!) on a sticky note and putting that in your wallet should you ever need a refresher. Otherwise, I recommend doing some research on how you can overcome the urge to drink during the holidays (click on this link to read some great tips from Tempest Board Member Ruby Mehta, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and fellow sober person). And if you need extra support, Tempest Membership and our Accountability Coaching can help you quit drinking or cut back.
5. Forgive Yourself if You Slip Up
I am going to tell you something that I used to feel a lot of shame about. After getting sober in the summer of 2015, I slipped up on Thanksgiving (and wrote about it for our Instagram). Then I slipped up again on Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, and my birthday in March. The first year of sobriety was not easy for me, and I seemed to be in this pattern of staying sober most of the time but then fucking up during big live happenings. At least, it felt like a fuck up. But what I learned through Tempest’s shame-free, clinically-proven, holistic approach to quitting alcohol is that sobriety is a journey, not a destination. So if you find yourself struggling or even slipping up, forgive yourself. I wish had a Tempest Recovery Coach to help me deal with these feelings at the time but, ultimately, I’ve learned that self-forgiveness is important this time of year—and always.
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The holidays can be a difficult time for those of us who are trying to get or stay sober. Although the season can be filled with joy and laughter, it can also be filled with loneliness because not everyone is going to understand our decision to quit drinking. Thankfully, there is a way to infuse some extra holiday cheer this time of year with our tips above. So let’s have a booze-free cheers to that!
Written by Irina Gonzalez. This post is in partnership with Tempest: online alcohol treatment that fits into your life. No labels, no judgement, just results.