Sober Holidays: Get In The Spirit Without The Spirits

Carly BensonSobriety0 Comments

staying sober through the holidays carly benson

It’s that time of year when there is certainly no shortage of parties to attend where getting liquored up and the chances of making the bad Santa kinds of decisions tend to be probable if you’re anything like I was.

I can remember back to my last drunken company Christmas party. It was during the height of my drinking and drugging career in 2007, which, at the time I did not know would be my last holiday hoorah as party girl.

That year at the party I was nursing a hangover from the night before and surely heading right into blackout mode, per usual, unless I countered it with some of my beloved booger sugar – an all too likely story for this time in my life.

My best friend attended it with me and I text her today to have her remind me if I made any of my standard embarrassing moves that night, as my recollection from my drinking days is hazy at best.

She informed me I was mildly well behaved at this particular party while others were drunk underneath tables (or maybe it was on top?) – however I’m happy to report it was not me, not this time at least.

For me, company holiday parties were just a pregame-warm-up to a much bigger party up my nose afterwards. I only went for the free food and booze while I tried my best to skate through the party without saying or doing anything I would later regret.

It had very little to do with being in the holiday “spirit” or wanting to hang out with my co-workers. No – it was a time for uninhibited get-out-of-jail-free shenanigans.

Holiday parties were free admission to get drunk and then figure out a way to bail once I caught a nice buzz so I could move on to the real “white” Christmas, which was honestly the goal any time I drank whether it was Christmas or not. I was always ready for the white snow, if you know what I mean…

The holidays were just a permission slip to get extra out of control in my eyes and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one of this mindset.

It’s crazy thinking back to all of the times when drinking ruled my life, not just during the season. Alcohol and cocaine where non-negotiables in my world, especially when it came to any type of social gathering.

I drank to get drunk and I did it because thought it was the only way to have fun. I couldn’t have fathomed attending a party without getting completely lit. I didn’t even know what it felt like to be social without drinking.

So, needless to say, I understand that heading into fa-la-la-la-la land and New Years Eve can bring on memories, triggers and anxiety around alcohol for us sober peeps.

The holidays can be tricky to navigate for a person choosing to live an alcohol-free lifestyle. On all of my coaching calls recently, I’ve noticed a theme of anxiety about making it through all the holiday festivities without drinking. This proves especially hard for people who are newly sober or experiencing this time of year for the first time as a non-drinker.

The good news is – it can be done. It can be fun. And it can be just as merry. You can get in the spirit without the spirits.

This is my eighth season in sobriety and now I can’t even imagine recklessly drinking my way through it like I used to. Instead, I look forward to remembering the holidays with my loved ones and not having to worry about making a fool of myself. Being sober helps me stay mindful as I celebrate the real reason for the season, which is the greatest present any of us will ever receive. And waking up without a hangover everyday is a glorious bonus to being sober, too.

If you’re feeling anxiety about staying sober during the holidays, here are a few helpful tips:

Address exactly what you feel anxious about.

Is it a party? Is it about what others will think? Is it about what you will say or look like? Nail down what is causing you to feel most anxious. This will help you to identify some areas where you can spend time thinking through what’s really going on in your mind. Pay attention to what you’re truly in fear of to see if it’s something alcohol would typically be used to cover up, numb or mask.

Create action plans to help you navigate through your anxieties.

Once you know the source of your anxiety, now you can create a plan to alleviate the stress. If you are feeling worried about drinking at a party, maybe you can speak with a family member or friend who will be going with you to ask them for their support. Knowing you will have someone in your corner while you’re in attendance can be so helpful. If you are worried about what to say if offered a drink, get clear and grounded in why you are not drinking so you can stand strong in your reasoning.

Understand that having fun is ultimately up to you.

Most people begin to panic, or worse- relapse, because of fear that they may be boring. Sober doesn’t mean boring. What makes us boring is our attitude about having fun. Being sober gives you a chance to create new definitions of fun. You get to choose if you want to dance, joke around or engage in the art of conversation with other people. And you most certainly don’t need a drink to do that. Usually people who feel boring in sobriety are the ones who are sitting in a corner, being anti-social and obsessing over being boring. It’s all about mindset, so make a conscious decision to have fun without the booze and you will naturally have your version of fun.

Always keep a drink in your hand.

This has been a game changer for me. When empty handed, it invites in questions and offers for drinks. When I’m drinking my pineapple-Sprite, the crowd believes I’m joining in the festivities, which helps circumvent any unwanted conversations around not partaking. If you’re looking for some fun drinks to indulge in that don’t come wrapped in bows of regret, The Sober Senorita has got you covered with some awesome non-alcoholic drink options.

Don’t over-commit yourself.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree to a number of holiday outings in an effort to be “normal,” and “social,” only to find yourself standing inside the party wishing you were all snuggled up in a fuzzy blanket at home. Keep in mind politely declining is always an option. Wisely picking and choosing your holiday itinerary is a duty you must mindfully exercise. Remember, most people will be too tanked on eggnog and such to even remember if you showed up in your ugly sweater or not.

Wishing you and yours a safe, sober and spirited holiday season! Namaste all my sober reindeers!

If you want to dive deeper around this subject, here are more articles I’ve written about being sober at the holidays.

10 Reasons Why It’s Better To Stay Sober Over The Holidays

How To Avoid Drinking At Holiday Parties

8 Reasons Why Sobriety Is The Best Christmas Gift You Can Give Yourself

Tips For Staying Sober During The Holidays