The holiday period can feel like a minefield if you’re looking to cut down your drinking – or trying to stay sober. Work Christmas socials, celebrations with friends, and all that time spent in front of the TV with a well-stocked fridge nearby can make drinking too much feel inevitable.
For people who want to drink less, the question of how to celebrate Christmas or New Year’s Eve without alcohol, or how to explain your sobriety to your friends and family, can feel like a real challenge.
At HAGA, we understand that this can be a difficult time of year for people, and that you might want a bit of extra support to get you through the holidays.
We wouldn’t have been able to pull this off without the knowledge of our staff and service-users, who have kindly shared their expertise and experiences on the best ways to navigate the holiday period. Here are HAGA staff and service-users top tips:
Set goals (and tell everyone)
The first thing to think about before you enter the festive period is what you want your drinking goals to be. Whether it’s staying sober, or sticking within the fourteen unit a week guidelines, having a target that you’re working towards can keep you focused and give you something to measure yourself against at the end.
The other important thing is to tell people what your goals are. Friends and family can give you that extra support and hold you accountable. They may even change their behaviours once they know what your goals are. Cutting out alcohol is a lot easier when your friends stop offering you a drink. So tell people what your goals are with pride. You never know, you might just inspire someone else to change their drinking behaviours too.
Change your habits
It’s not just the amount you drink, but how you drink that matters too. It’s easy to consume a lot of alcohol at Christmas without really noticing. Many of the tips from HAGA staff focused on how to be more mindful about your drinking behaviours. You might, for example, try ordering half pints instead of full pints, or measuring out drinks when you’re mixing them yourself. And alternating an alcoholic drink with a soft one will also help you reduce the amount of alcohol you’re consuming.
For those of you who want to stop drinking entirely, there are plenty of non-alcoholic cocktails for you to switch to. These days, there are even a number of festive editions – think alcohol-free eggnog and champagne. This makes it easy to enjoy your favourite drink and meet your goals at the same time. Lots of HAGA service-users recommended ‘spring cleaning’ your house and getting rid of any alcohol to help break the habit of having a drink or two in the evening, so that you can kick off 2018 in the best frame of mind.
Making changes takes time, and new habits tend to take a little getting used to. But a few small changes, like these, can add up to a big difference in the long term, helping you to change your drinking behaviours without impacting how much you enjoy the festive period.
Fill your time with something new
Another key thing that our service-users said that they find useful is finding a new outlet for your time, money and energy. It could be exercising in the local park, learning to cook something new, or drawing. Finding a new way to fill your time is a fantastic way to take your mind off alcohol and fill you with positive energy. And if you want to give something back, volunteering locally is a great way to do something worthwhile and spend your time helping others.
Don’t go it alone – get support from like-minded people
Our service-users and staff spoke about how spending time with like-minded people helps you to manage your drinking. Local support groups can offer a great way to share advice and seek support. Many local organisations will offer activities to keep you busy throughout the festive season. Alternatively, you could try pairing up with a buddy who shares your goals to get the support that you need. There are also lots of online communities, such as Soberistas and Club Soda, that you can log onto and share you experiences. Whether its support groups, a like-minded friend, online forums, or all three, it’s your choice. Pick one that works for you and run with it. It’s a great way to engage with people and get the extra support that you might need.
Finally, making changing to your drinking habits is a big deal. When you meet your goals, it’s only right that you reward yourself. It’s up to you how you want to mark the occasion, but a few of our ideas, included celebrating over mocktails, making your friends dinner with your newfound cooking skills, or buying that trip away that you’ve been saving for. Whatever you do, it’s important to celebrate your achievement, show people how far you’ve come, and mark the start of a longer term change.