Five top tips for surviving the sill season alcohol-free

Written by Annabel Stewart

More and more of us are deciding that life is better – simpler, calmer, easier – without alcohol.

For some of us it’s a case of putting our health first, for others it’s a case of nipping addiction in the bud or prioritising our families.

I did it for all those reasons and more, and my life is a million times better. I love living my life alcohol-free and having my health and well-being back – I was so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

But the first time I faced Christmas without wine, I was a tad nervous. How would I survive the office parties? What would I do about the long boozy lunch on Christmas Day? How would I deal with drunk Uncle Albert without getting tipsy myself?

I had no idea how it would pan out and spent quite too much time worrying about it in the weeks before.

Of course, it was fine. It felt a bit unsure at times, but I not only survived, I loved it.

I loved going out for work dinners and driving myself home when I was ready to leave, with no worry or shame about saying anything inappropriate or lurching into tables.

I loved having the energy and balance to deal with a long and busy Christmas season.

I loved having a clear head and no hangover on Christmas morning, and helping the kids open their stockings. There was precisely zero downside. It was all good stuff, and I had more fun, not less.

I’ve had a few years of alcohol free living since then, and want to share some thoughts for those who are hoping to negotiate Christmas alcohol free for the first time.

  1. Decide what it is you really love about Christmas: I love the Christmassy feeling of magic. I love the fact the kids get super excited about the whole time. I also love time off work and spending time with people I care about. Decide exactly what makes it special for you – it won’t be the hangovers.
  2. Commit to not drinking and make it non-negotiable: Commit and stick to it to your guns. If you dither, it’s easy to fold. You need to make a plan and follow through, including having an escape plan so you’re not stuck. You can do it, you’re stronger than you think.
  3. Decide what you’re going to say: You can decide in advance what to say to the people who try to persuade you that “just one won’t hurt”. You can say you’re driving, you’re doing a wellness challenge, you’re allergic to it; whatever works for you to close it down. Then smile and move on. The ones who work extra hard to convince you to drink are usually the ones who are fighting private battles, so find compassion.
  4. Make sure you have a great alcohol-free drink:
    Decide what you’re going to drink instead, and take some with you if you can. Make it fun and treaty, so you’re not stuck sipping tap water from a plastic cup. You deserve something delicious – I love the small bottles of kombucha with lemon and ginger.
  5. Ask yourself, ‘how would alcohol change this situation?’
    I very quickly came to realise that very few situations are improved by drinking. When I was out having fun, swapping stories with friends, and crying with laughter, the fun had nothing to do with the drinking. It was about the connection and the special people. When I was having a dreary night with people I had little in common with, drinking didn’t help. It was still a dreary night. Alcohol is sadly not a magical elixir.

When we reset our relationship with alcohol, we start to see what’s really important in our lives. We start to live with authenticity and integrity. I used to think that being sober was dullsville – I was a rebel, wild and free. But the irony was that alcohol had me trapped and my life was passing me by.

Being fully present, spending time with people we care about and living life to the full; that’s the true spirit of Christmas.