Silly Season Survival Guide

Wednesday 29 Nov, 2017, 1:43am by Mrs D 14 comments

This is a really tricky time of year for us sober people. There are numerous parties and gatherings to navigate. There are family pressures. There are a million bullshit marketing messages being thrust at us. Everywhere we turn it seems we are being slapped in the face with the fact that we are DIFFERENT and STRANGE for not drinking.

That’s how it seems at first anyway. My first sober Christmas & New Year’s was a BIG DEAL .. scary and tricky and really full-on. But I got through it with the help of legendary sober blogger Mr Sponsorpants’ Annual Holiday Survival Guide which I encourage you to read, and a bunch of techniques that I will share here.

This year – my seventh sober silly season – I’m not terribly worried about. Far from it actually, I’m so happy that I’m going to be grounded and clear right through the madness. But it has taken me quite a bit of practice to get to this point. I have some techniques and tips that I’m going to list out here that might help you along if you are feeling nervous about it all. As always – please do chime in with your own suggestions below in the comments.


Put it in perspective: It’s actually just another sober day/days that you need to get through like all the others. Work your usual techniques to keep your brain on the right track. If cravings hit – Delay, Distract & Drink (water). Read this for more tips on beating cravings. Call ‘Bullshit’ on all your hardwired thoughts about alcohol’s magical properties. ‘Play the tape forward’ past the first sip (it never ends up like the romantic image would have us believe). Visualise yourself climbing into bed sober, visualise yourself waking up in the morning happy and proud with no hangover. I NEVER wake up regretting not having drunk the night before!

Make the right decisions for you: Protecting your sobriety (especially if you are new to recovery) is the most important thing. If you think it’ll be just too hard to attend social/family events and stay sober – don’t go. This silly season will pass without you in the middle of it. In the long run offending a few people is easier to manage than rebuilding after a relapse. And even if your friends and family are disappointed now, hopefully down the track they’ll understand. And if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. Only you know your truth, only you know what’s right for you.

Stay positive: If you do decide to sit out some parties & events this year in order to protect your newly sober delicate self, don’t let your brain bombard you with ‘sober loser’ and ‘woe-is-me’ thoughts. Remember, what you are doing in removing alcohol from your life is brave and amazing and really hard work, and even if it sucks right now you are heading for a much happier reality. Think kind thoughts, treat yourself gently, be your own best friend.  This also applies if you are feeling quietly miserable in the middle of a noisy crowd. No-one else might understand how brave you are being but know it yourself. Pat yourself on the back.

Fake it till you make it: If you’ve got no choice but to attend the work christmas party/extended family function/New Year’s Eve BBQ (or you decide you want to even though you’re feeling nervous) then slap a smile on your face and put a spring in your step. Act like you’re going to have a fabulous time and who knows – you might just have a fabulous time! If not then remember…..

….there’s no shame in leaving early: It’s taken me a while to get this (always the last at the party!) but it’s ok to quietly pack up your things and say goodbye, or wave ‘night night’ and head to bed. You came, and now you’re going. Especially good when booze is starting to get the better of some people or if family dynamics are getting too much. Smile and be polite (you can cry/scream/laugh hysterically in the car or into your pillow!) but be firm and swift if that’s the decision you’ve made.  Just leave, get yourself somewhere safe and administer sober first aid. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

Plan your drinks: Make sure your non-alcoholic beverages are the best goddam non-alcoholic beverages you’ve had all year! Buy the most expensive ingredients you can find and treat yourself when you’re at home. You are worth it. Visit our Drink of the Week page and plan ahead. Make individual portions of frozen ice & pineapple chunks so you can whip up a Virgin Pina Colada in no time!  Make the basis for Homemade Ginger Beer days in advance and just top with fresh soda water when desired! Prepare the simple syrup for a Virgin Mojito. Call it a ‘Mocktail Party For One’ and go to town. If you’re out in town order a Red Bull and pretend it’s got vodka in it (that private conceit alone was enough to get me through a massive party in early sobriety). Tell the barman you want water in a wine glass, or gingerbeer in a short tumbler with ice (no straw!). If you’re going to someone else’s house take along what you want to drink and ask for the type of glass you want to drink it in. Be in charge of your liquids.

Look around: Everyone has shit going on in their lives. Everyone is as pre-occupied with their shit as you are pre-occupied with yours. Take a really good look around and imagine what is going on for your friends, colleagues and loved ones. Thinking outside of myself really helps calm me down, recognizing that others are battling away in their own lives helps me get perspective, and being kind and understanding to others helps me feel strong.

Remember you are not alone: There are many thousands of us around the country and the world who are battling through the silly season sober. Picture yourself surrounded by an invisible shimmery cloud of fellow brave sober warriors. You are not alone.

Stay in touch!: Keep your phone in your pocket or computer/iPad/smart device handy and check in with the online recovery community regularly – every hour if need be! Many sober bloggers will be posting throughout the silly season – keep an eye on my Blog List at Mrs D Is Going Without. Stay busy in the ‘Members Feed’ here at Living Sober. Keep your sober buddies close. We all get it, we’re all in it together.


  1. Mrs. D, your writing is just beautiful! I wish I’d found you and this community before Christmas. I sailed through the traditional family Christmas with a low-grade, happy wine buzz. Yet I’ve known for years that my drinking feels like a cop-out, a way of avoiding real life. I’ve been gearing up by joining this and another online community, enlisting the support of my hubby and a couple of dear (and sober) friends. Please wish me luck. I’m actually feeling more excited than scared!

    1. @virginia, I have just started this journey and am a few days ahead of you but I’d love a buddy to pair up with if you want. I’m actually on day 29 but I have a number of social situations coming up this week and the next and I’m terrified. I’m loving being sober, exercising and running each day. I’d love a backup buddy if you or anyone is keen.

  2. Dear Mrs D, I love your writing, your journey and what you have shared. I just wondered though, is this website connected to AA? I am curious. I have a bit of a drinking problem but not up with the abstinence for life thing.. Please message me back! Thanks ClareT

  3. I attended my first party of the season earlier today. I arranged the party at the home of an aged poet whose wife died recently. He likes a few daily drinks and having friends around, and I had offered to do it all, bring the rum, the eggnog, the cookies to his house. I committed to this three weeks ago before I unexpectedly quit drinking. I thought of cancelling but I couldn’t bring myself to disappoint the people I’d invited. So off I went this afternoon with a cooler full of ice, two bottles of rum, a huge carton of eggnog and drinking glasses, because his glasses are never that clean, and I reasoned that if I brought everything I could take charge of the operation and pour the drinks and serve them, and no one would be wiser. As soon as I walked in, someone said, “Here comes the supplies!” The man who said this was immediately at my side in the kitchen, opening the first bottle of rum while I lined-up the glasses on the counter. He started pouring before I had a chance to activate my plan and I began to worry that I’d wind up with rum in my egg nog, which I would then not be able to drink, and I was really really looking forward to sipping on some creamy virgin egg nog. “Actually, I won’t have any rum,” I said, head down and no eye contact. To this he said ‘okay’ and poured me a small amount of egg nog. I served the drinks and sat down and listened to the conversation, tried talking a few times, but my tongue was a bit tied, so I listened. Nothing anyone said was all that riveting. The only funny thing was when the 82-year-old poet said his mom was crap and he tries to suppress memories of her but they keep coming up like an overflowing toilet. That made me laugh! At the end, I drove home stone cold sober and couldn’t wait to get on this site to see how everyone else is doing. I’m so happy to find this timely post! Thanks for the solid advice, Mrs. D.

  4. Just wanted to say hi. I signed up today. Have just started reading your book and think this site will be a big support. I think alcohol plus being in an abusive marriage has caused me to isolate so this may be exactly what I need

    1. Hi Marien
      Ditto, now I am without alcohol and abusive marriage and its a much better space. Not perfect, but alot better. Well done coming to this site, it helps reduce the isolation and is awesomely supportive. xx

  5. Good morning,dear Lotta you darling,I have woken up feeling better about Xmas after reading your post last night.
    I’m nearly 1 year alcohol free.
    Bring it on,I’m gonna plan lots of ways to treat and pamper myself all through December,and especially on Xmas day.

  6. Really helpful post,definitely needed that,this is my 1st alcohol free Xmas in over 20 years.hey Lindaur have put out a sparkling grape juice,it’s absolutely beautiful.
    That post on play the tape forward is excellent,I actually remembered it a little while ago as I was driving home from shopping,and feeling a bit sad at not having any wine this Xmas,then I thought,hang on,play the tape till the end,don’t be fooled by the romantic notion wine holds for me.

    1. Yes the Lindauer sparkling grape juice is great! That got me through Christmas day toasts and toasts for engagements and will serve well on New Year too :-). It looks just like the alcohol version, in the bottle and the glass, so can avoid the “not drinking?” questions.

  7. Very helpful, great list @mrs-d! I love your point about thinking about others, knowing everyone has their shit to deal with. I think that a great thing in being sober is becoming less self-centred – yes, you definitely get to know your self better, and because of that, you can relate to others better, be more empathetic. I think that’s why we’re a warm, kind tribe here, we have a good thing going. xo

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