Silly Season Survival Guide

Friday 14 Nov, 2014, 11:31am by Mrs D 15 comments

My first sober Christmas & New Year’s was a BIG DEAL .. scary and tricky and really full-on. 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 other techniques that I will share here.

This year – my fourth 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. 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.

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! 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. 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. I plan on updating regularly right through the silly season. Keep your sober buddies close. We all get it, we’re all in it together.


  1. TM can be halpful – Toilet Meditation. If you feel cornered in your head about the beautiful booze surrounding you, take a break in the bathroom, sit, close your eyes, and take some slow deep breaths in solitude. In a few minutes you will be good to go! And, as a bonus, you can go ahead and pee while you are in there.

    1. Another new week coming up where I start all over again. Why cant I stop once and for all? Its getting worse. 1 bottle of wine is not enough and I am buying 2. Its costing me a fortune and I want to STOP
      How do I get past those first days. In the past, I feel tired, miserable, grumpy and shaky.I cant sleep and the night sweats are yuk.
      Any suggestions please.

    1. I LOVE this idea but it will not work for me… as much as I would like it to (ha ha). I am at Sober Day 30 and VERY excited!!!! This is hard work!!!!! This will also be my first holiday booze free. I am making sure my support toolbox is overflowing. We can all do this!!!!!!!!!

    2. Good for you! Sobriety First & I think you need to do whatever it takes! This is my first Sober; Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year. Last year was a haze of booze. This year I’m celebrating being sober. I’ve talked to my son about us keeping a booze free house this season. He was fine and supportive.
      I’m going to blow out on Christmas goodies and enjoy them.
      @behind-the-sofa you are not alone, just because you close your front door. You have a whole cyber world to make sober-Christmas-merry with.

    3. @behind-the-sofa hehe i know what your saying, but just remember this, you’re the strong one people looked up to, you are the one people want to be like because i bet deep down, they want to give up drinking also,
      don’t hide, be proud

  2. I recently received my regular cheap wine advert inserted in my ANZ visa statement. Why they feel justified in promoting cheap bulk wine delivered cheaply is cynical profit making. Callous and insensitive. The AA also send the same insert in their magazine (quarterly). We need to stop this unethical promotion. Consumers Institute want people to prevent unwanted salepeople from knocking on the door and cheap teaser credit sent by email. There is no difference with alcohol inserts. Write to Consumer and your MP and encourage action on this front as well.

    All the best for this difficult season.

    The one light on the horizon is drinking and driving legislation will reduce the tendency to drink as heavily after Dec 1. This will lead to low alcohol and non alcohol beverages becoming more common and more normalised in social situations.

  3. Thankfully my Christmas and New Years are usually quiet (ie boring! lol) Stay at home on New Years as a rule and get drunk by ourselves….not this year of course.

    If you’re out at someone’s home to a BBQ etc one way to occupy your time is to offer to help the host with food or pass nibbles around. You can’t do that with a glass in your hand :-)

  4. Thank you for this timely post, our party season with work is about to kick off next week (yes, really) and career-wise I really do HAVE to go to them all (part of my job is entertaining clients – boy!!) There are some excellent ideas, and I will be using these regularly! Thanks x

    1. Wow good luck @tryingagain2505 let me know how it goes… I’m 31 and in sales in an industry where it’s a lot of young people and happy hours galore. I still want to have fun but have to figure out how since I’m new at this.

    2. Sorry meant to say that originally I was going to “do this sober thing” in the new year as stressed myself out over Dceember – but I am SO happy that I didn’t wait and whilst it will be hard, I feel I will be able to deal with this x

  5. What I call the ‘festering season’ is still for me a time filled with unhappy family memories and stress. Each year I plan ahead to make sure I’m comfortable with parties and lunches, that I don’t end up stuck in some nightmarish hard-drinking crowd with no lime and soda and only a few peanuts to nibble on.

    A few more tips:

    1 I always bring my own mineral water or soda to any parties or suppers and keep a small energy bar in my purse, in case the food is late
    2 If I’m invited fro lunch or supper I bring a large bowl of salad ingredients or a homemade tarte tatin, to make sure I don’t have to cope with boozy desserts. And I never try slices of fruit cake because it is often laced with brandy.
    3 This is the time of the year when couples squabble and children get fractious –I make an excuse to go and make a phone call if I need breathing space, or I quietly leave early. If I am feeling irritable or argumentative myself I do a three-minute meditation and I still find counting to 75 is that tiny space that helps me detach
    4 If someone who is still drinking wants to talk to me about their drink problems, I give them my phone number and tell them to ring me on January 2nd. In my experience, most people find it very hard to stop before New Year’s Eve and that just causes guilt and recrimination
    5 Almost every year, I host a New Year’s Day lunch for sober friends and invite someone who is just starting out on the sober adventure to come along. Many people feel more relaxed in a place where there are others not drinking and no alcohol anywhere

    It gets easier with each year and it’s lovely waking up fresh and clearheaded for the first day of a new year!

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mrs D. This will be my first Silly Season in sobriety and although just about 4 months in I am no longer battling on a daily basis, I’m wondering how I will cope with Christmas etc. I’ve already figured I’m saving several hundred dollars on booze – and am putting that towards a long weekend in Melbourne in summer with my hubby. But the thought of breezily avoiding all the bubbles, flowing wine and other alcoholic indulgences is a bit scary. Your Survival Guide will be my go-to in the weeks to come. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. You’ve done us proud again, making sure we’re well equipped for this particular battle!

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