As a social drinker, December was always my favourite month. The festive season celebrates excess, and I was rarely sober. I would fully embrace the mantra ‘eat, drink and be merry.’ . Baileys with brunch? Why not! Liquid lunch? Of course, it’s Christmas!
A born introvert, I loved getting drunk to boost my confidence and would lose myself in weeks of alcohol-soaked evenings, accepting every invite for fear of missing out. I was full of Christmas spirit (usually vodka) and was often the first on the dance floor and the last to leave any party.
In my late 20s, something shifted. I struggled to moderate my alcohol intake. I lost phones, purses, shoes, and whole nights would disappear from my memory. December saw me lurching from one hangover to the next, waking up daily with suffocating hangxiety and a new bump or bruise from a drunken fall.
In January 2017, I spoke to my GP about a debilitating bout of anxiety and insomnia that left me unable to work. I casually mentioned my anxiety seemed to worsen when I was hungover, so the doctor suggested I stop drinking for a month to see if my mental health improved. Desperate to feel better, I decided to give sobriety a go.
December saw me lurching from one hangover to the next, waking up daily with suffocating hangxiety and a new bump or bruise from a drunken fall.
The early days of sobriety felt a lot like grief. My strongest friendships were formed through drunken nights out and quitting felt like breaking a social pact. Getting drunk was normal and expected, and any attempts to stick to soft drinks were met with cries of: “Don’t be so boring” and “One drink won’t hurt.”
But moderation and I were not acquainted. I realised with alcohol; it would always be all or nothing. My anxiety did get better when I stopped drinking, and for the sake of my sanity, I needed to cut alcohol out of my life completely.
Sober days turned into weeks, then months, and soon I was facing my first sober Christmas. I was acutely aware then that alcohol was soaked into every event. I tried to go to parties and enjoy myself but often bailed at the first sniff of mulled wine.
I realised the strength I needed to socialise sober was a muscle that required training, and I couldn’t just throw myself into a boozy party and hope for the best. So I avoided events where I would be the only teetotal person present and clung to pregnant friends for moral support.
Slowly but surely, socialising sober became easier. When I was drinking, I often argued with loved ones, but I never raised my voice or lashed out when I was sober. I got better at striking up conversations with strangers at functions without liquid courage and discovered that sober dancing is quite fun! I also realised that I could just go home if I wasn’t having a great time or felt pressured to drink.
Now I’m facing my fifth alcohol-free Christmas; I’m excited to enjoy (and remember) every moment of the festive season. The only thing I’m missing by not drinking is …….