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staying sober during the holidays 5 simple tips Yvette Hess blog

A guide to survive the festive season without alcohol- for the newbie alcoholic

This is my tried and tested guide to surviving the festive season without alcohol. How do I know it worked? I stayed sober! I think staying sober during the holidays is tough for anyone, but especially for those new to recovery. So, if you’re a newbie alcoholic, keep reading! You know that phase on your journey when people if you question if you really have a problem, and uhm, then you begin to question yourself too!

Sometimes I wonder how the hell I survived. Why? Mainly because Christmas time is insanely stressful. So, to combat this, I try to plan everything beforehand. We set the venue, meal plan- all those details way before the time. I used Pinterest and got some ideas for the table decor. I bought napkins, tablecloths, new cutlery- yes, indeed I am “extra”. The day before Christmas, it was decided to move it to another town.


I also have very turbulent anxiety issues, so I need to plan, breathe, execute.

So that’s where the crap started, I was unstable and sensitive. What more? I was sober, so I had to actually experience those feelings without being able to numb it with a glass of Merlot. You know?

And because I was sober, irritable and experiencing stress, I found myself constantly explaining why I’m sober or “craving” sugar and carbs just to keep me calm; to keep me still. I decided to take a step back, look at the mistakes I made that pushed me into this whirlwind or crappy emotions and pushing me to slip. And take that first sip. I won’t lie, there were moments I could taste the Castle Lite draft on my lips.

Let’s get to business: staying sober during the holidays

I posted this a few weeks after my post where I celebrated three months of being sober. It was an achievement, especially for me. Especially because I felt embarrassed so I was not going to allow the festive season to ruin my stats nor break my spirit. I am just over a year sober now and feeling more myself than ever. I think I am funnier too.

Here we go:

Do NOT go into a liquor store if you are not ready

This should and could be a new post altogether. My experience when I walked into a liquor store with my family, was a strange one. An ocean of drunken memories came flooding in. I recalled the numerous times I’d buy my second bottle of Merlot while intoxicated. I’d try to act sober (hahaha), but I could feel those stares. Anyway, I was already so sensitive and stressed- was definitely not the best idea. I’m very used hiding my feelings and pain, so I saw that I just shoved the overwhelming sense of shame down my own throat.

Buy drinks you actually like, not only ones to shut yourself up

Look, at first, I worried about this point. I went from Merlot to beer to coca cola and coffee. Sweet coffee. Yet, I still felt unsatisfied. It was then that i decided to explore mocktails and their ingredients. And one drink stuck, tonic water. I kid you not! It’s not even a real drink- it’s a mixer! All I needed was half a tot or lime or passion fruit cordial and I’d be in heaven. I loved the bitter taste coming through between the sweetness of the cordials. I was worried that I’d never be satisfied as I have a thing for hints of bitter. But, I found my legal dose of satisfaction. Literally.

Try NOT to make the decision to be sober, a topic of discussion (especially when others are drunk already)

I know, it was a huge decision for you to stop. *HIGH FIVE* But, I also realized that even though it is not your intention, people may feel that by you not drinking, it means they shouldn’t either. Sigh, I know it’s got nothing to with them. But some people can be funny and internalize everything or anything. Even the way you say “hello”. How to escape this? Just change the topic. Be subtle of course. Another little warning, don’t let your sobriety become a topic of discussion in the early days. This is because some people are tactless and you may become defensive. And in defending yourself, may want to finish a bottle of gin to prove you don’t have a problem. It happens.

Surround yourself with people who will support you and who will not question your decision

This relates to post number 3, but I want to focus on the type of person you invite into your circle. I enjoy having people around me who make me laugh,  make me feel like the respect my decisions or way of thinking, AND people who can relate with similar experiences. The latter helps to feel less alone and that this journey is very real, with real consequences. This isn’t a phase. It’s a life change to get my (YOUR) life back

(Last one!) Just breathe, damn it!

Now that you’re sober, you will be sober of mind, not only to speak your mind, but truly fell all the “feels”. You’ll be able to experience and connect to the joy you were once too drunk (or tipsy) to live before. And of course, there will be great new memories to be made. It’s important to note that just because you are sober, it doesn’t mean that you won’t experience any awkward or frustrating non-alcoholic moments either. The feeling you feel will be real and in your face. You won’t be able to numb it down with a Jack and Lime. Nope. It’ll settle onto the hairs of your arm and seep down into your pores. Breathe.  There’s hope though. Being sober not only means you will be able to acknowledge the difficult situation but you are now empowered to act and act responsibly.

You have control.

What worked for you in your attempt at staying sober during the holidays? I’m sure there are many who would benefit from you sharing!

You don’t need the booze. You don’t need the crutches as you are perfectly capable of working through the tough time. Yep. And as you are capable of that, you are fully capable of feeling every bit of pride when you wake up in the morning sans hangover and you remember every joke from the night before!

Well done on your attempt at staying sober during the holidays. It’s brave. And guess what? It’s possible to achieve!

Hello, new year!



  • Lynne Huysamen

    Congrats on getting through your first sober Christmas Yvette, you have done so well! I came out of a secondary care rehab facility at the beginning of November in 2008 and was only in the tertiary care facility for a little over a month before the festive season started kicking in! I remember how awkward and uncomfortable that was. The worst part like you say is that you have nothing to numb those uncomfortable feelings.

    These are awesome pointers that you have shared – they will help other newbies to recovery for sure. Things will start to get easier – I find the festive season awesome now with my little family – it is easier now to stay sober years down the line and life is amazing.

    • Yvette

      Thanks Lynne! Yep, there’s nothing to numb it and sometimes the additional meds have their own side effects which are an additional pain to manage. I do hope they can help in some way. It’s a lonely road, especially in the beginning and any tips should ease the difficulties one may encounter. I look forward to better Christmases Lynne. But I believe it can improve. The only way is UP! <3

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