Saturday, 12 December 2015

Coping With Christmas Sober (Part 1)

After the last two months, I know that I can cope with anxiety and stress without drinking.

I truly believe that there is no problem in life that cannot be made worse by alcohol.

When the s**t hits the fan, you need a clear head, not one befuddled by booze, or hijacked by a hangover.

But I still miss it when it comes to celebrating.

(Not the tiny 'celebrations' of old, like making it through to 'wine o'clock' with all three children unscathed, but the proper biggies).

Two weeks ago, when my oncologist told me I didn't need chemotherapy, he suggested that Mr SM and I "go crack open the champagne."

(And this was after I told him that I didn't drink).

Somehow, in those types of situations, eating a piece of cake just doesn't feel adequate.

And Christmas is like that. Along with birthdays, it's the occasion when a Becks Blue feels a bit bleurgh.

I have never done a sober Christmas. Even when I was pregnant I allowed myself (with my obstetrician's blessing) a glass of wine or two on Christmas Day.

So, knowing that December 25th may be tough, I'm limbering up in preparation.

Step one is being honest, which means revisiting the Ghost of Christmas Past.

When I think about drinking at Christmas, the glasses I remember are:

(1) The crisp, chilled white wine while wrapping the stocking presents on Christmas eve.
(2) The glass of champagne while getting Christmas lunch ready, and
(3) The full bodied glass of red with the turkey.

(Even typing that list I can hear the Wine Witch whispering ooh yes. Go on. You could have just those three. That wouldn't be so bad, would it? For f***s sake, you're celebrating Christmas, nine months sober AND getting over cancer!)

(For more on the Wine Witch, see my post: The Wine Witch)

But the trick is to force yourself to remember all the others.

Because I wouldn't drink one glass while wrapping the presents. I'd drink a bottle.

I'd often put the wrong presents in the wrong stockings leading to bemusement the following morning as one of my daughters would find football socks, and my son a Barbie.

("Ha! Ha!" Mr SM would chortle, "Santa was at the whisky again last night!")

I'd wake up, as usual, at 3am and toss and turn, sweating and hating myself, until around 5.30am when the troops would pile in. Three children and a dog, brimming over with excitement and anticipation.

Instead of joining in the joy of Christmas morning, I'd try to hide my aching head under a pillow, while panicking about preparing Christmas lunch for ten, on three hours sleep and a hangover.

By 11am it would feel like we'd been at it for hours, and we'd open the first bottle of champagne (the only day of the year when drinking before midday is not only acceptable, but obligatory).

By 1pm I'd have drunk most of a bottle and lunch would be going seriously screwy. Juggling turkey, stuffing, five vegetables and gravy making is testing at the best of times, and near impossible when drunk and knackered.

The children would be high on sugar and consumerism, and behaving terribly in front of grandparents. Requiring more alcohol to dampen the stress.

Finally sitting down for lunch was a huge relief, requiring....a toast! Plenty of fine red wine, continuing well into the afternoon. After all - IT'S CHRISTMAS!

Final tally by the end of the day: two bottles? Maybe three?

An afternoon and evening spent dozing on and off, and trying to ignore the children. A toxic night tossing and turning, and Boxing Day feeling like near death.

Was it just me, or were your Christmases anything like that?

So, having made myself re-live the reality of Christmas Past, I now have to find a way of really appreciating Christmas Present and Christmases Future. Without the booze.

And that's the subject of tomorrow's blog....

Happy-Nearly-Christmas everyone!

SM x


  1. I was lucky enough (?!?) to give myself the hangover to end all hangovers last 'Mad Friday' (Mad Friday being the last Friday before xmas when 99% of the population plan a night out thus making it the most difficult night of the year to get hold of a taxi - apparently). It took me until the following Monday to sober up and thus I vowed not to drink all Christmas. This wasn't a difficult decision to reach as I had made such a fool of myself (again!) in my drunken stupor and had the war wounds to prove it (plus a £50 valet bill to clean a friends car!). So I for one am looking forward to this sober Christmas.I know exactly what you mean about not being able to let our hair down properly, but for now my memories of 12 months ago slap me back into reality. Maybe we will get our kicks from sherry trifle and champagne truffles (which still feels wrong but tastes so good!) and witnessing other peoples hangovers (smug, but satisfying ;-) ) Big sober Saturday hugs all round. LNM x

    1. I'm with you on the champagne truffles LNM! It's my guilty secret ;-)

  2. Oh SM! You nailed my Christmas Past with your own story (except for Boxing Day as I am in the US... :)
    I will miss celebrating with the wine and champagne this year, but not so much the horrid hangovers and embarrassment for some of my drunken actions on the holiday. Here's to our first Sober Christmas! xxx

  3. "Was it just me, or were your Christmases anything like that?"

    Nope, not just you! My Christmases were crazy with booze as well, and this first Christmas without is worrisome. I fear it's all going to be one huge trigger, especially Christmas at my parent's house. I'm actually planning on trying a non-alcoholic beer for the first time just to have something different and somewhat special in my glass.

    1. Hey DobieGirl! I've tried lots of AF beers and, as you've probably gathered, Becks Blue is my fave. It was a lifesaver when I was going through the whole cancer diagnosis thing.... Stay in touch - we can do it together :-)

  4. I can't wait until after Christmas to get sober; it has to start today. Your Sober Christmas ideas will help me. Annie x

  5. I have now had 3 sober birthdays and 2 sober Christmases. This is number 3.
    I think my idea of letting my hair down is just different now.
    If I can sit in a room and smile to myself at the love and contentment I feel in my heart, I am truly happy.

    I never, ever got that feeling of deep personal pride (I'm not sure I want to use the word pride, but I can't think what else to say) from champagne.

  6. I was feeling down and decided to read your latest blog post. Exactly what I needed. I am 2 days away from 5 months sober which still feels like a miracle to me. This time of year is proving to be really difficult and I just have this nagging feeling like I am missing out. I know logically that I am way better off not drinking but I hate feeling deprived. It seems like everyone is having a great time and I have to somehow feel satisfied without drinking. It's such a struggle. Thank you for your blog. It really does help.

    1. 5 months! Amazing! If you read my post on 6 months sober, Relentless, you'll see that it was a turning point for me. That's when it started feeling 'normal'(ish), and lots of people say the same. So DON'T GIVE UP NOW! We only have a few weeks to go until January when the whole world will be groaning with hangovers and quitting in droves! You're amazing! Xxx

  7. Dear SM - what a fantastic post (again!) So helpful for me. I was going to ask for some 'how to do Christmas sober' tips - so this is awesome. Feeling so good with the sober days I've totted up so far and really do not want to let it all go to waste. Yes - my Christmas past sounds very similar to yours - so I will focus on that when I hear that evil witch of vino nudging me. PS I've not posted for a wee while - but am always reading - so I missed saying congrats on 9 mths sober, wedding anniversary (hugs to Mr SM too! he sounds a bit like Mr SFM - unbelievably tolerant of my silly drinking days), and ongoing virtual positive vibes to bolster your ongoing strength with your curve ball/lemon - aka - 'the wonky boob'. You rock SM. Cant wait to hear the next instalment! Love SFM

  8. Being able to drive too! That is one of the best bits of the whole party season for me. Realising how much effort I used to put into the logistics of getting there / getting home again. Meeting some friends for a big lunch next Saturday in a country restaurant near Leuven so instead of spending 100€ (and the rest) on taxi's, train and trams, I can pop in the car, properly taste the food and enjoy the chat, then drive home again, taking the scenic route through all the wee villages, carols playing and singing along.

    Also, spending so much less money, no more present shopping online while under the influence and ending up with some surprising mystery gifts! Merry Christmas to you, darling woman.

    1. And to you! Do you ever eat at Istas in Jesus Eik? That was my family's favourite place for steak frites and dame blanche :-)

  9. "I truly believe that there is no problem in life that cannot be made worse by alcohol.

    When the s**t hits the fan, you need a clear head, not one befuddled by booze, or hijacked by a hangover."

    I'm priniting this out and sticking this everywhere in my house! I used alchol as medicine for depression and social anxiety. Everytime I've lapsed has been due to stress.

    Thank you for a great quote, and post. xxx