How to have an alcohol-free festive season

For many of us, alcohol is an essential part of the festive season.  Sharing a drink with coworkers, friends, or family is tradition – and then of course, if some of those people get to you, you might feel you really need to drink to survive a party or dinner with them.

But as you’d probably also agree, alcohol has its dark side.

It’s easy to dismiss this if you don’t have what easily identifies as a drinking problem. But binge drinking, drink driving, altercations, assault, blacking out, and impaired judgment can have serious – even fatal – consequences, no matter how rarely you might experience them.

According to a recent survey (whose results are shared in this interesting take on alcohol in Oz), 78% of Australians think our country has a problem with alcohol.  Fine, that’s just an opinion. A more sobering statistic: 29% of Australians have been affected by violence due to alcohol consumption.

All the more reason to avoid mixing alcohol and the holidays.

Of course, there are other reasons not to drink, including pregnancy, medical conditions, personal or religious beliefs, weight loss goals, and addiction recovery.  But whatever your motivation, it may be hard to even imagine getting through the festive season without a drink in your hand.

Luckily, there’s lots of advice out there on avoiding temptation, and much of it comes from recovering addicts or other people who can’t or choose not to drink.  Here are some of their strategies:

 – Have some excuses ready. You may be comfortable with not drinking, but still feel awkward when turning down a drink.  Or a host or friend may insist, regardless of what you say.  So have a few excuses ready.  Some of the most popular include saying you can’t drink because you’re taking antibiotics or are allergic to alcohol.  If these don’t work for you, no worries – you can find plenty more by doing an online search.

 – Have a drink.  I don’t mean an alcoholic drink, of course, but keeping a glass of some other kind of beverage in hand makes it less likely that people are going to push you to take an alcoholic one.

– Avoid functions that revolve around drink. Some gatherings might be unavoidable, but others – like, say, that friend’s sure-to-be-wild party – are worth erasing from your schedule.

– Get some hypnosis.  Clearing the pressures that create the desire to drink is probably the best way to resolve reliance on alcohol, and hypnotherapy is a very effective way to do this. In fact, if you genuinely want to stop drinking alcohol altogether, during hypnosis, your hypnotherapist can provide suggestions to your subconscious mind that can leave you with no desire for a drink at all.

 – Bring a friend.  If you have to attend a holiday party or function where there will be alcohol, invite a friend along who’s willing to support you and help you keep from drinking.  If your friend can’t physically come, ask if you can connect with them via your mobile, if you feel the temptation to drink is getting too strong. If you don’t have a friend you can count on for this, consider joining your local branch of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  They’ll connect you with a sponsor, someone who can provide just this kind of support.

– Use your local AA or other organisation’s resources.  Many AA branches and other organisations hold events focussed on the challenge of not drinking during the holidays.  These include parties of their own and special, party-oriented support groups.

Another important strategy – maybe the most important – is to bear in mind that there are plenty of fun, rewarding things to do that don’t involve alcohol. Here are just a few ideas:

– Drink something delectable.  Going alcohol-free can be a great way to discover new things, from a trendy virgin cocktail or tea infusion, to revisiting holiday classics like hot cocoa.

– Play games. This is an alcohol-free strategy you’ll see on a lot of lists – for good reason. If you want to beat your friends at Monopoly or Cards Against Humanity, you’re not likely to measure up if your brain is fuzzy.

– Volunteer.  Giving back during the holiday season can provide you with a sense of purpose and connection. It will also keep you in an alcohol-free environment where you’re too focussed on other things to crave a drink.

– Plan alcohol-free events. Instead of clubbing or bar-hopping, get a group of friends together for a spa day, ceramics painting, a trip to a museum, or splash out together on some shopping. If you’re more into home-bound activities, you and your pals can take on a new hobby that requires concentration, like knitting, whittling, or scrapbooking.  Or just make some popcorn, flop down on the sofa and marathon movies together.

 – Self-care. If alcohol is your ‘reward’ for dealing with stress or family strife, take a different approach.  Take time (even if you have to wait till the rest of your family is in bed) for a long bath, curling up with a book you’ve been wanting to read– anything that makes you feel good and is a bit special.

An alcohol-free festive season is possible and it can be a way to reconnect with friends and family, discover new hobbies, and take better care of yourself.  If it still seems daunting, check out local and online organisations and support groups.  Therapeutic change-work is also a good way to get started making a positive change for a healthier, happier new year so contact me if you feel its time to get some additional supports.

Enjoy the season!


Karen Seinor

Soulful & Wild

Albury NSW Australia