Sober for the Holidays

Welcome to sober Christmas! This year marks my first without mulled wine, regular wine, cheap wine, good wine, or post-wine whine (I AM FUNNY, ENJOY AT MY JOKES), and to be honest, it's a bit daunting.

I stopped drinking because it was the smart thing to do, and while I rode that "I don't drink anymore, good for me!" high for the first couple of months as most people do, I've since (now at six, almost seven months, thank you very much) settled into the everyday groove where you live your life without thinking about having a drink — usually.

For the most part, Christmas is an alcohol-heavy time. Families who don't get along find themselves in the same room, the odds of running into people you didn't like in high school skyrocket, and damn it, you want to have fun, so let's just drink from the bottle already. Last Christmas, I had a stomach bug and still doped myself up enough with Immodium (#glamourous) and Gravol so I could take dip into the river of wine in lieu of snacks because damn it, I had to! It was Christmas!

Well this Christmas, that option doesn't exist anymore. This Christmas, I am enjoying the holiday merriment with the stone cold brain of a stone cold sober person. I'm excited to not reveal details of my personal life to people I've just met at parties, but I'm not excited about not drinking mulled wine. So in case you're like me and refraining from the drinky-poos (LOOK AT HOW LIGHT-HEARTED I AM ABOUT THIS SERIOUS TOPIC, LET'S APPLAUD POLITELY), here are some tips. Because we can do this. (And less drink calories mean more cookie calories, so sit on that, mulled wine temptations.)

1. Be honest about not drinking

I wrote about not drinking before, but three months have passed since that time, so I've got the perspective of somebody 90 days later (exciting). When I first stopped drinking, I didn't want to make it a thing, so while I was honest, I still refused drinks with a "no thank you" or "oh . . . I . . . I don't drink . . . yeah." So here's the truth: you're not drinking. That's it. The facts. "But why?" Nobody usually asks, but if they do, you say: "Because [your answer]." Unless somebody is a complete monster of a human being, no one will ever — ever — pressure you into having a drink when you don't want one or if you've said you don't drink. This isn't high school, and if you are reading this and are in high school, you now have a jump start by knowing you can say "you are a garbage person, goodbye" much earlier than the rest of us did.

However, sometimes leaving out "I don't drink" can leave the door open for questions or polite drink offering. Sometimes "no thank you" is misunderstood as "not right now, thank you." You don't have to go into your life story, you don't have to share details of your enlightenment, but a simple, "Oh, I don't drink, thanks!" is enough to be offered a ginger ale instead. This is 2013: no one is going to stop, gasp, and say "WHAAAAAT?! Everybody stop the party. Stop right now everyone. SO-AND-SO doesn't drink! HE/SHE DOESN'T DRINK! Can you BELIEVE it?!" *party breaks up, everyone's night is ruined.*

That just doesn't happen. It's adulthood: nobody cares.

2. BYO(non)B

However, just because we may not be drinking doesn't mean we get a free pass on contributing to the "party environment." First — unless it's a trigger — you can still bring wine or a drink for whoever's hosting, even if you're not going to drink it. (Again, unless it's a trigger. You know your triggers. Some people can walk into an LCBO and feel fine, some people can not. Don't set off your triggers for fear of "offending" a person — buy them a cake or a gift card instead. This is a trigger-free zone. no one is going to say, "WHERE IS THE WINE I EXPECTED YOU TO BRING WITHOUT ASKING YOU TO BRING IT.")

Second, you can (and should) bring a non-drink drink of your choice. If you can drink non-alcoholic options, go for it. If you stick with juice, bring some. If club soda helps the party atmosphere, buy all of the cans. I've learned that while not-drinking is an achievement to me, it's not on the mind of somebody trying to clean their house and cook food for a party (because why would it be, that would be ridiculous) so picking up ginger ale isn't prioirty one. We don't want to be treated any differently, so don't act any different: don't show up and ask, "Oh . . . so, you don't have any other drinks?" since of course not — this is a BYOB world. We must bring our own pop.

3. Remember why you quit drinking

Would I love a glass of wine at a Christmas party this year? Obviously, yes. Of course I would! I'm a human being who really likes wine. But I also want a thousand cats, and that doesn't make it a good idea. People with food allergies? You understand: you could have peanut butter, but you would absolutely go into shock and regret it immediately. It can be easy to minimize the reasons you quit drinking when "Jingle Bell Rock" is on and you desperately want a drink to forget the band who's covering it, but ultimately, there is a reason why you quit. And even the worst music, or the worst night, or the worst people (I don't know where you are in this situation, but you should probably make other plans) isn't worth slipping because it will not only feel awful, you have to deal with the "oh shit, I just slipped" feeling. That feeling is brutal. That feeling is not worth the mulled wine you can replace with apple cider. It's not worth the Bailey's you can replace with Irish cream flavouring. No drink is worth the "ugh now I have to start this countdown all over again" feeling. And honestly, we've made it this far, we can make Christmas a cakewalk.

4. Be honest about the way you feel (even if it's just acknowledging it to yourself)

Here's another thing: if we can be honest about not drinking, we can be honest about wishing we could drink sometimes, too. Keeping on top of how you're feeling is a good way to avoid finding yourself at the point of no return. If you're out and you know you're not in a great headspace, tell a pal you can trust, or even just make your excuses and leave, and call whoever you need to call (another friend, a family member, a sponsor). Anybody worth anyone's time isn't going to lecture you or make you feel bad or make you feel like you're ruining their night because you're feeling uncomfortable. If they do, they're not good friends, and those are the types of toxic people to cut the hell out.

And if you've been at a party for a while, and it's starting to turn into a drunken fiesta, you don't have to stay. Make your Irish goodbye (say goodbye to the host, then disappear — it's wonderful) before you start to feel the effects of being around a lot of hammered people (a.k.a you are annoyed), and leave having had a good time. The holidays aren't about getting bombed — they're about hanging out with your friends and people who make you happy. If you're in an environment where neither thing exists, you can go. We're adults. We were grown-up enough to know to stop drinking, so we can be grown-up enough to surround ourselves with the types of people who want us to be happy and healthy. That's how friendship works, and how adulthood works, too. We've got this, you guys.

Tags: being sober, Christmas, drinking, Holidays, not drinking, Self-help, Sobriety

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