Saturday, 15 December 2018

5 Ways to a Fabulous Sober Christmas


If you're approaching your first ever sober Christmas, you're probably feeling a bit nervous about the whole thing.

I remember.

I was terrified about the idea of Christmas without booze. I thought it would be really hard, dealing with the constant triggers. I expected it to be boring and joyless. I pretty much wrote it off, and just wanted to get through the whole thing as quickly as possible.

Now, I'm approaching my fourth sober Christmas, and I promise you that I am more excited about Christmas than I ever was when I was drinking.

Like all of these things, the first time is the hardest, because it's all so new. You've spent decades doing Christmas one way (drunk), so it's bound to be a bit peculiar trying to do it a totally different way.

I remember when I first got married, being really nervous about Christmas. You see, every family has their own Christmas traditions, timings and rituals that somehow become totally sacrosanct, and you know that as a 'new' family, you're going to have to compromise and merge your traditions to create a new template.

Well, learning to do Christmas sober is a bit like that. It will eventually be just as good as the old Christmases (way better, in fact), but it will be different. You'll have to find new rituals and traditions to replace some of the old ones. But you will.

So, here are my top five tips for a fabulous sober Christmas:

1. Be brutally honest about Christmas Past

Okay, this is the mental 'limbering up' phase. You can start working on this one right away.

It's very easy to look back at Christmas with rose tinted glasses, and to remember only the jolly times. That glass of wine while wrapping the stocking presents on Christmas Eve. The first glass of champagne while cooking the turkey. The glass of red wine with Christmas lunch, and the whiskey while you watch Christmas telly in the evening.

STOP RIGHT THERE.

Go back and look again. Remember what happened next. All of it.

Remember how you drank too much while wrapping the presents and got some of them muddled up (or was that just me?). Remember waking up on Christmas Day with a hangover, feeling meh, and unable to get excited about the day ahead.

Remember getting drunk before lunch, messing up all the timings and forgetting the gravy. Remember the family arguments and falling asleep in front of the telly, missing the end of the film you'd been really enjoying.

Remember Boxing Day, feeling like death.

Does any of that ring any bells at all?

The truth is, Christmas probably stopped being really fun several years ago. The booze wasn't making it better, it was actually sucking away the joy.

Whenever you find yourself yearning after the 'good old days', replace those images in your head with the real ones.

2.  Don't try to be Superwoman

This is really important.

You are doing an amazing and brave thing, for you and your family, in giving up alcohol. This is the very best Christmas present you could possibly give. You DO NOT need to make everything else totally perfect and prove yourself some kind of superwoman as well. Do that next year, if you must.

This year, keep it as simple as possible. Don't try to cram in too much socialising or hosting. Don't over promise. If necessary, claim some kind of illness and cancel some things. Just focus on you, and your immediate family. The rest can wait.

Try to build in some time when you can take yourself off and hibernate for an hour or two, and recharge your batteries.

3.  Think about What You're Drinking

Make sure that, throughout the day, you have special drinks lined up.

The choices here are totally individual. Some people find 'fake booze' - like alcohol free wines and beers - really helpful, others find them too much of a trigger. Work out what works for you before the big day, and make sure you have stocks in.

I will be having a Seedlip and Fever Tree tonic on Christmas Eve, a spicy Virgin Mary while I'm getting the lunch ready, and a glass or two of Torres Natureo alcohol-free red wine with lunch. The truth is, I'll probably finish the bootle of wine over the course of the afternoon, because old habits die hard.

4.  Line up Treats

We big drinkers get out of the habit of treating ourselves, as for many years our go-to treat has been a glass of wine (or similar).  Plus, drinkers tend to have very low self-esteem. We don't think we deserve anything special.

Over the next few days have a really good think about other ways to treat yourself over the Christmas period.

Since you're missing all those booze calories, you can buy yourself some yummy foodie treats for the big day. Go wild. It's only one day. Feel no guilt.

Download your favourite books, music and movies. Invest in a pair of snuggly cashmere socks.

I'm going to book my eldest daughter and myself in for a pedicure on Christmas Eve, and I'm taking the whole family to Winter Wonderland.

Plan a giant lie-in on Boxing Day, or a shopping trip to the sales. Think how much cash you've saved by not drinking over Christmas, as spend some of it!

Do whatever you know will make you feel special. Because you are special, and you do deserve it. You really do.

5.  Be a Child

I realise now that Christmas is actually one of the easiest times to be sober. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, so bear with me...

The hardest time, I think, to be a non-drinker is at a drinks party. The clue is in the name. The whole event is built around drinking. Often sober people are really badly catered for. You end up with a glass of water wondering what it's all about.

Christmas, however, is the opposite. There is so much going on, over and above the drinking.

Christmas is about friends and family, it's about wonderful food and fabulous company. It's about magic and gratitude and love. It's about music and singing and films and family games and presents.

There is just so much to focus on, and you can properly focus on it, in all its wonderful gaudy glory, when you are totally sober.

Look at children at Christmas time. They are hyperventilating with excitement about it all, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with booze.

Be like them. Be a child. See it all through their eyes.

And if at any point you're finding it hard, then fast forward to the next day, because you know that on Boxing Day you are going to wake up feeling absolutely fabulous and so proud of yourself for having done your last ever first sober Christmas.

Merry, merry Christmas to you all!

By the way, there is loads of info and inspo on the SoberMummy Facebook page, and if you have any friends planning a Dry January, then the paperback edition of The Sober Diaries is out on December 27th (whoop whoop!). You can find it here.

If you're in the USA, you can't get a hardcopy annoyingly, but you can download on Kindle or audio (click here).

SM x

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

I'm Back!


Hello!

I'm back. I'm so sorry about the radio silence.

I've not posted on here for a month, nor have I replied to any comments (so sorry if you left one - I’m trying to catch up!) I've not bought a single Christmas present. I've not sent any cards. There were days when I only just changed out of my pyjamas to do the school run. I've not worn any makeup for weeks.

For the last five weeks, I've been editing my novel - The Authenticity Project. The deadline to get it back to my publishers in the UK and USA was yesterday. I made it. Just.

I know I shouldn't grumble, as writing is actually the best job in the world. Whenever I talk about 'my job', my children clutch their sides and laugh hysterically, as they can't believe that anyone can be paid to make up stories. I can't quite believe it myself, to be honest. But the last few weeks have been hard.

For a start, there's the constant self doubt - is anyone actually going to want to read this? Plus, one of my main characters is an addict, and whenever I get to the chapter where he (spoiler alert) falls spectacularly off the wagon, I feel awful. Writing about his struggles getting sober feels much like I'm doing it again myself.

Now I'm done, I'm exhausted. And the hours spent hunched over a laptop, mainlining mince pies for energy, mean that I'm physically out of shape and have done my back in. I'm a wreck. And Christmas is approaching like an out of control steam train...

So, now the manuscript has left my desk and hit the desks of my editors, I can concentrate on getting fit, and getting my s**t back together in time for December 25th.

And it's so fabulous to be back here with you guys. I'm so sorry for abandoning you!

I'll post here in a day or two on how to survive Christmas without the booze, and I am still posting information and inspiration every day on the SoberMummy Facebook Page (click here), 'like' page to stay updated.

In other news, The Sober Diaries is coming out in PAPERBACK with a brand new cover design on December 27th. You can pre-order here.

Huge love to you all!

SM x

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

How Long Does it Take to Break a Habit?



We're not very good at waiting for things.

We've become so used to being able to buy anything online and have it arrive at our front door within twenty-four hours. We have any information we might ever need about anything just a few clicks away. We can find a date just by swiping right. Instant gratification is the new norm.

When I quit drinking, I knew that the first few days, possibly weeks, would be pretty awful, but I thought that, fairly quickly, life would return to normal and I could forget about the whole thing.

How wrong I was.

You see, changing a deeply ingrained habit takes time. 

I spent nearly three decades persuading my sub-conscious mind to equate any social event with alcohol. Then, over time, I taught it that alcohol was necessary to deal with any celebration, any commiseration, any stress, any anxiety or, in fact, pretty much any emotion at all.

However determined you are that alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, prescription drugs (delete as appropriate) no longer have a role in your life, you cannot hurry up your subconscious. It will catch up with the new agenda eventually, but you have to, slowly, slowly, build new neural pathways to replace the old ones.

For fifteen years, I was a terrible smoker. I adored smoking. I saw it as rebellious and sexy, and cigarettes were the prop I relied on to get me through any slightly tough times. By the end, I would need to light a cigarette just to answer the telephone, and I was smoking around thirty a day.

Quitting was really hard. I didn't think I'd ever be able to enjoy a party again, or a meal with friends without the cigarette at the end to look forward to. How could I have sex without being able to light up afterwards?

It took a long time to persuade my sub-conscious to get with the programme. I missed it less and less, but the cravings would still blind-side me for months after I quit.

Yet now, the idea of smoking after a meal, or after sex, or indeed any time at all fills me with total horror. Why on earth would I do that to myself?

And, three years after quitting drinking, I'm starting to feel the same about booze.

These days, I hardly ever think about drinking. I don't notice what other people are drinking. I have to remind myself to buy wine if someone's coming round for dinner, and I never look at their glass with envy. In fact, I don't look at it at all.

But getting to this point took a while. You can't do it in one month, which is why Dry January can be a bit off-putting. The first month is really hard, and not long enough to see the real benefits.

So how long does it take to break a habit?

Many addiction experts talk about the power of threes.

It takes three days for the toxins to leave your body.

It takes three weeks for the worst of the physical withdrawal symptoms to recede.

It takes three months (or around 100 days) for the worst of the mental cravings to go.

I would add that it can take over a year before you get to the point where it never even crosses your mind to go back there.

I'm sure that the reason a lot of people quit quitting is that they've done a few days, weeks or even months and it's still hard, and they can't believe that it should still be difficult, or that it's ever going to get any better.

I promise you, IT WILL.

100 days seems like a very long time when you're struggling. A year feels like an eternity. But it's nothing in the context of the rest of your life.

There are some tricks you can use to give your sub-conscious a kick up the arse.

If you're quitting alcohol, change all your passwords to ilovebeingsober, for example. Just typing that several times a day will help.

Make a vision board showing what life without booze/cigarettes/sugar will look like - happy, healthy and energetic. Put it by your bed so that your sub-conscious sees it every single morning.

Write a list of all the reasons you don't want to drink/smoke/eat rubbish and put it on the fridge door.

Don't give up giving up. Don't give up on yourself. Don't give up on life.

If you do find yourself constantly back at Day One, then read my post The Obstacle Course (click here). It's one of my most popular blog posts and many, many people have told me it's helped them.

To find out more about the ups and downs of the first few months sober you can read my book, The Sober Diaries, here (UK) and here (USA).

I also post daily information and inspiration on the SoberMummy Facebook page ('like' page to stay updated).

Love to you all,

SM