If you’re having a sober Christmas, you might well hear this:
‘You can’t not drink, it’s Christmas!’
Ever heard that? If you think about the origins of Christmas, Champagne and endless drinking doesn’t really come up.
So why do we treat Christmas like it’s a god-given right to drink? Marketing. Alcohol companies know that everybody loves an excuse to crack open a bottle and drink without control. It’s Christmas!
In fact, the ‘it’s Christmas!’ argument is used by every company. ‘Get a new haircut, it’s Christmas!’, ‘Buy a new dress, it’s Christmas!’, ‘Buy this massive box of chocolate, it’s Christmas!’
What they’re actually saying is this, ‘give us your money, it’s Christmas!’
Do you really want to celebrate by punishing yourself?
When you make the choice to not drink, you’ve taken responsibility for your own health and mental wellbeing. You made that decision in the face of all the pressure to keep drinking. Celebrations can be another form of pressure.
Enjoying Christmas doesn’t hinge on your consumption of alcohol. In fact, it’s more common to hear that people drink to get through Christmas. That doesn’t sound very fun. Waking up on Christmas Day with a hangover doesn’t put you in the mind frame to celebrate.
How to tell people you’re having a sober Christmas
You don’t have to make a big deal about not drinking at Christmas. Since having a lovely holiday is not related to alcohol, there’s no issue. You’re not missing out. Alcohol doesn’t get better for you just because someone put up tinsel.
But you may well get offered a drink or pressured into having ‘just one, it’s Christmas!’
Here are a few response ideas:
- ‘No thanks, I don’t drink.’
- ‘No thanks, I’m not drinking as I want to feel good in the morning.’
- ‘I don’t enjoy myself as much if I’m drinking.’
- ‘No thanks, do you have any soft drinks?’
If you ask a question directly after declining a drink, it’s often enough to stop any further questions. By simply declining, you leave a space for them to ask about why you’re not drinking or pressure you into having a drink. When you ask a question, you disrupt this because they need to respond to your question.
If you’ve only recently given up and you’re not sure if you’ll be able to decline a drink, you have a couple of options. If they’re a good friend, let them know before that you won’t be drinking and don’t want to be tempted so you’re happy to bring a non-alcoholic drink along for yourself.
This way, they’ll know not to offer you alcohol and will most likely have a good stock of nice soft drinks. Remember, plenty of people don’t drink for a huge amount of reasons. From not liking it to avoiding it for health reasons, not drinking is simply a lifestyle choice, like being vegetarian or not smoking. You’re not weird for not drinking.
If you’d rather not have to discuss it, you could drive. This will automatically prevent you from drinking and if you bring along a soft drink, you can have a glass in your hand and no one will bother you.
Of course, if you really think you’ll struggle, you can just not go to Christmas events that involve a lot of drinking. This is your life and being freshly sober isn’t always easy in a society that encourages alcohol consumption. Take this year off Christmas events and do other things.
Christmas things you can do without alcohol
When you skip the alcohol at Christmas, you’ll have more energy, time and money to do other things.
- Got kids? Wake up early and go do something fun outside with them while there’s daylight. Waking up early is easy without a hangover.
- Go for a morning run. If you’ve been drinking the night before, running sucks in the morning. But sober, you’ll get to see the quiet paths, the sunrise and the frost before anyone else.
- Cook. Gifting alcohol is common but you can avoid it all together. Learn to make Christmas biscotti, jams, pickles or any other tasty treat.
- Go ice skating. With or without children, ice skating is brilliant. Rinks often open in the evenings over Christmas and it’s definitely something you wouldn’t want to do after a drink. (Trust us).
- Catch up properly. Christmas is about the people you love and might not see very often. If you’re drinking, you can’t catch up properly. When you’re sober, you get to listen better, ask more interesting questions and remember all the funny stories you hear.
- Be a designated driver. Everyone loves the designated driver. In fact, no one will question you not drinking if you offer them a lift. We’re not saying burn your saved cash on fuel but if it’s convenient, offering lifts to an event you’re both going to shows others that your sobriety is pretty useful.
- Do the things you’ve been meaning to. Writing a novel? Making a quilt? Reading your pile of bedside books? The Christmas period gives us time off work that we can all put to better use than sitting around suffering with hangovers.
- Plan your year ahead. Do you want to change careers? Start your own business? Learn a new language? Go back to school? When you start planning your year ahead, you can see the unlimited possibilities and get inspired. Getting hopeful about the future gives you strength to manage the present.
When it comes to Christmas debt, the statistics are terrifying. Here in the UK, more than a third of people borrow money for Christmas presents. One in twenty skip bill payments, incurring late charges and one in five even put food on credit cards.
For what? For a Christmas that looks as magical as those in the shop catalogues?
A sober Christmas is a cheaper Christmas. Not only do you not have to buy any alcohol in the supermarket or in bars, but you don’t have to pay for taxis either. You won’t spend money on impulse due to alcohol and you have more time to spend making gifts.
You’ll start the New Year without having spent silly amounts on alcohol, you’ll have slept better and possibly eaten better too. As alcohol urges you to overeat, staying sober gives you the opportunity to avoid that Christmas weight gain your colleagues always moan about come January.
A sober Christmas has so many benefits.
- Saving money
- More energy
- Make the most of your time off work
- Catch up with people properly
- Maintain normal eating habits
You’ll start the New Year feeling strong and positive, not unhealthy and regretful. When you remember these benefits, you can think about them any time someone offers you a drink.
If you need help
In the UK, if you need help with your drinking, check out the resources at Alcohol Change. In the US, you can use these hotlines. If you’re struggling with debt in the UK, you can access the charity National Debt Line here. In the US, visit the government’s debt website here.