My associations of alcohol with the winter holidays started young. We left cookies and a scotch & soda for Santa. Without considering it, I introduced similar associations for my own daughter as I perennially sipped Champagne while we trimmed the tree, and by insisting each season that we visit at least one dive bar festooned with tinsel and one grand hotel lobby for a spiked cocoa or bloody mary.
During this season, the alcohol starts flowing at all hours, with bottomless brunches, work team lunches, company parties, cocktail parties, airport bars, New Year’s blow-outs and hair-of-the-dog breakfast punch.
This can all feel like a minefield for anyone considering cutting back. We might feel like throwing up our hands, drinking more than ever, and waiting until January 1st (hmmmm, maybe the 2nd or 3rd?) to get started on this project.
I get it. I’ve been there. But using these tips, you can dial up your enjoyment of the season even while you dial down drinking a notch or two.
Take charge of your calendar. Rather than simply reacting to the invitations of others and feeling disappointed that your time is being hijacked or that everything revolves around alcohol, pick at least one thing you YOU want to do (and invite others to join if you want company). This really helps avoid feelings of resentment by making sure some of your own needs are being met.
Invent ways to connect that don’t revolve around alcohol. If you invite friends to hike in the woods, play basketball, build a snow fort, screen a movie trilogy, make greeting cards, see a play or join a tamale-making party, odds are people will be grateful for your invitation and initiative.
Invest in some self-care, which is never selfish! Take a walk, a nap or a bath, or give yourself the gift of an urban adventure or a session journaling in a coffee shop! For every five things you do for others, do at least one thing for yourself. This helps bring down the feeling of “I need a drink to take the edge off."
Stock up on AF alternatives. This market is exploding and delicious low-sugar, low-calorie sophisticated bottling are blessedly plentiful. Most are so attractively packaged, not only will you not feel relegated to the boring AF “kids’ table,” but other guests will likely be curious - and these products make great hostess gifts! How things have changed! Two years ago there just weren’t any decent AF wines available and what I ordered turned out to be the equivalent of a lump of coal. I’ve sampled more than 100 products and this year, the only problem is making up my mind which great products to order!
Give something away - such as gently used coats, money or your time. The science is clear that giving to others gives us a big dose of genuine happy brain chemicals.
Make a plan for each event. My plan includes making sure I feel comfortable going to the event and being around alcohol in the first place. Next, I check in and ask myself how I want to feel at the event and then visualize myself feeling exactly that way. I think about what the event is for, who it’s important to and how can I show up in a way that supports that person. And lastly, I always make the first drink of the night alcohol-free. That non-alcoholic beverage gets me through the first most-awkward few minutes of a social event and makes sure I’m fully hydrated. At that point, I can make a more mindful decision about how I’m feeling and what I need and want.
It’s about progress not perfection, so above all, be really kind to yourself. We don’t punish ourselves into lasting change ever.
Please share in the comments how you might seize the season and take great care of YOU! Cheers to that!
Martha Wright is a New Orleans-born wine industry veteran turned sobriety/mindful drinking coach. She works in small groups and 1:1 in her own practice, Clear Power Coaching, as well as coaching hundreds of people within This Naked Mind (founded by best-selling author Annie Grace) where she is a Senior Coach. She offers a path to regain control that focuses on understanding the neuroscience of habits, uncovering unconscious beliefs, honing coping tools and cultivating fun and play. You can download her free guide, You Can Enjoy Wine Country Alcohol-Free and 4 Other Crazy Things No One Told Me About Sobriety.