8 Ways to Stay Sober During the Holidays. Redux.

By Amber Tozer 12/27/15

The season isn't over yet. Amber Tozer offers her own options for making it through to New Year's.

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If you don’t want to drink during the holidays maybe you should just lock yourself in a room with a bunch of water, healthy snacks and self-help audiobooks. Or get pregnant, even if you’re a guy. My sister says it’s easy to not drink because she’s pregnant, and I just wanted to pass this along to you guys. If breeding sounds like it’s a bit too much, just start screaming now and don’t stop until 2016.

If I don’t mess up, this will be my seventh Christmas without any booze or weed or coke or mysterious pills. 

Just kidding. I just think it’s funny giving sober holidays tips to people and make it sound like it’ll be a nightmare because that is a common assumption. When I was drinking the thought of not drinking during Christmas and New Year's seemed impossible, and why in the hell would I even want to do that anyway? I didn’t have a problem! That one time I woke up under my aunt’s Christmas tree on Christmas morning, still drunk from our family holiday party the night before, wasn’t MY fault, maybe Santa put me under that tree! It was Santa’s idea. I was a goddamned Christmas gift to my little cousins! I love how denial can inspire creative ways to blame other people, even fictional characters.

If I don’t mess up, this will be my seventh Christmas without any booze or weed or coke or mysterious pills. We have two big family parties during the holidays that are stocked with alcohol, food, cool people (except for like seven of them) and adorable kids (except for like two of them). We play games, listen to music, drink, eat and be merry. The Liberals and Republicans usually start yelling at each other, and we all end up in a fog of uncomfortable silence until a baby does something cute and we all laugh and then it feels better. In the past, I would slowly get hammered, under the radar, chain smoke in the garage, and pray for Christmas cards with money in them. As the years went on, I could not get a good buzz. I thought this meant that maybe I should drink more, which led to blackouts and horrific, nightmarish hangovers. And, being hungover around my family was a very special type of hell that maybe planted a seed in my mind to check out sobriety at some point—so I guess it was a good thing.

Depending on your situation and how much sober time you have, I think both pain and joy will vary for you. For me, my first Christmas without booze felt very weird, not horrible or great or sad or scary—just weird. I didn’t feel like drinking; I just didn’t know what to do with myself. Now that I have some time in sobriety, I just do whatever everyone else does: laugh, fight, get annoyed, feel thankful for family and friends, play with the kids, overeat, pray for Christmas cards with money in them and sit on the toilet staring at my phone for way too long—I just don’t drink.

Here are some tips that have helped me stay sober during this time of year, hopefully they will help you. (I’m not an expert so if you wanna leave a comment offering better tips or yell at me because my tips are dumb, go ahead).

Sober Holiday Tips:

1. Think it through—think about the next day.

When having a drink crosses my mind in that “fuck it, it’s the holidays” sort of way I think about the next morning and the person I will be. I think about waking up hating myself, dehydrated and trying to piece together the night before. I think about how I will tell my family I don't feel that well and isolate myself all day, sitting alone in a pool of self-hatred. When I think it through, the drink I thought would be "fun" quickly turns into the ugly truth.

2. Admit to your favorite family member that you don’t want to drink. 

Hopefully, you have a nice family member that you see during the holidays. If you don’t, I’m sorry. Just skip to #3. If you are lucky enough to have one (or more) of those cool, non-judgmental and supportive family members—maybe just let them know you’re trying to not drink. This will give you some accountability and a tiny support system as you try to navigate the holidays without numbing yourself.

3. Have a drink in your hand so you can easily turn down other drinks. 

A party trick I learned in early sobriety was to already have a drink in my hand so when someone offers me one I can say, “I’m good, thanks.” It’s so easy. If you don’t have a drink in your hand then a dumb discussion has to happen. 

“Can I get you some wine?” 
“Um, no thanks. I’ll just have some coffee.” 
“COFFEE? IT’S 8pm. WHAT ARE YOU A GRANDPA?” 
“Yes, that’s correct, I’m a grandpa.”

It’s not always that silly. I find that most people don’t give a shit what you’re drinking, but if you are uncomfortable or it’s your first sober holiday, it’s best to take tiny little actions where you can avoid explaining yourself to people.

4. Handle the asshole who keeps offering you a drink with grace and/or brutal honesty. 

I rarely come across pushy people who fixate on why I’m not drinking, but it has happened. It’s usually an active alcoholic who, after a few drinks is like, “You don’t drink AT ALL?” One time on Thanksgiving, this guy kept pouring shots for everyone and every time I simply said, "No thanks." After he was a little buzzed he was like, “COME ON! JUST HAVE ONE! YOU HAVEN’T EVEN HAD ONE!” I got real self-righteous and yelled, “I DON’T NEED IT! I DO NOT NEED ALCOHOL TO GIVE ME FALSE CONFIDENCE! I AM NATURALLY CONFIDENT! THE ONLY REASON WHY YOU WANT ME TO HAVE ONE IS SO YOU DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT HAVING SO MANY!”

You don’t have to yell but if you do have a suppressed rage issue like I do, go ahead and tap into it! He didn’t offer me any more drinks after that. Sometimes, I simply say, "I have alcoholism," and then whatever discussion happens after is always interesting. If you don't want to talk about it, which is understandable, maybe just keep it light. I know some people who say, "I'm allergic to it." Or, "I'm on medication right now and can't drink." It sucks when you have to explain yourself at all, but there are pushy assholes out there so be prepared!

5. Don't try to be adored by everyone when you're at a party.

If it's New Year's Eve and you're at a party and miss feeling that warm confidence booze used to give you to talk and schmooze and be funny—please know that this is all bullshit. When you run into these people again, unless they are one of your best friends, you're probably gonna be like, "Oh, hi. I think you're that person I obnoxiously yelled something at in an attempt for you to like me. Ok, bye." I used to thrive on getting everyone to like me, it was like a party goal of mine. "I want to get all of these people who don't care about me, to like me. I don't care about them either, but I want them to love me so I better slam some booze and really charm them." It's ridiculous if you really think about it. Now, when I'm at a bar or a party, I just sit around and see who I end up talking to. I had no idea I could just sit or stand there and end up having some fun conversations without putting a lot of effort into it. And then I ask and answer myself,  "Am I boring now?" Probably. "Do I care?" Absolutely fucking not.

6. Go to a meeting or call another sober person. 

If you are involved in a 12-step program, this is an obvious suggestion, it’s like the “drink a lot of water” of health suggestions. I just don’t know who is reading this, someone who is white knuckling their way through their first few days of sobriety or someone who has some time under their belt. WHO ARE YOU? Anyways, if you are involved in some sort of recovery program, and I hope you are (getting sober alone is super difficult and scary and lonely), I say to you get involved in that program or at least make a call to another sober person. Sober people are a minority, especially during the holidays, and talking to people who are like you, who understand you and who are kind to you, will really warm your fucking heart! Warm hearts don't need blood filled with booze.

7. Read about alcoholism and addiction.

Maybe if you get some time to yourself, read about alcoholism. When I first got sober, I was amazed at how clueless I was about the problem/disease/disorder/whateveryouwantocallit and I would read and read and read about it. I found that learning as much as I could about it, not only gave me hope and new life skills, it also made me not hate myself as much. I used to think I was really stupid and weak, and it just made me drink more, but once I realized how critical and deadly the “thing” that was living in my mind was, I cut myself some slack and understood I just needed some help. I think, especially if you are knew in sobriety, to take some time during the holidays to educate yourself on what ails you so you can strengthen your mind to fight against it. The knowledge I gained about alcoholism in sobriety was a key factor in staying sober. Stacking part of my mind with recovery knowledge helped me outsmart the addict part of mind. Learning about alcoholism and recovery is like giving the angel on your shoulder some sweet ass karate moves, so when the devil on your other shoulder acts up you can crane kick him in his dumb fucking horned head.

8. No matter what happens do not drink or use. 

This is the only one you really have to do to stay sober. No matter how uncomfortable or bored or mad or sad or happy you get—do not drink. Trust that this is the right decision even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. Sit with the pain and know that the negative thoughts that are racing through your mind aren’t true. They are lies. Take yourself out of your head and just observe how you’re freaking out. It will pass. If you hate being sober during this holiday KNOW that it won’t always be like this. It gets waaaaayyyy better. Let me say that again, but more dramatically, “waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy better.”

Ok. That’s it. Happy rest of the holidays everyone.

Amber Tozer is a comedy writer who lives in Los Angeles. She has written about a date gone awry, and five whole reasons sobriety tends to be awesomeFollow her on Twitter @AmberTozer

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