Surviving Christmas as an Alcoholic

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Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

Surviving Christmas as an Alcoholic

Everyone loves Christmas, right?

No. Wrong. Not everyone loves Christmas, but everyone is expected to love Christmas and if you don’t, people tell you not to be so “Bah humbug” about it.
But for some people Christmas just presents a whole new challenge to be overcome and they dread it. Christmas is supposed to be a time when families meet and spend quality time together, celebrating, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Some people don’t have big families or indeed anyone to spend Christmas with, others may be recently separated or bereaved and Christmas only serves as a reminder of this. Then there are the families who actually don’t enjoy spending time together and this “quality time” just resurrects old conflicts, or the stress of all the expectations around Christmas, creates new ones. Whatever your family situation, if you are also struggling with an alcohol addiction, Christmas will be a challenge. Typically, Christmas is a time when even the lightest drinkers, consume a larger amount of alcohol. So if you find yourself alone, or with people you don’t want to be with, the additional festive pressure of “you should be having fun with your loved ones,” could serve as a trigger to excessive drinking, particularly if you use drink to escape unpleasant feelings or situations.

Tips on how to get through the Christmas and New Year period

So how do you get through this difficult time without either succumbing to the social pressure to drink or turning to drink as an escape? The key to survival is planning ahead.
  1. Create a schedule of daily activities for yourself. There are plenty of activities going on over the festive period, such as Pantomimes, Carol concerts, Christmas markets, Christmas lights and Sales. You do not need to spend money to enjoy some of these things and you can keep yourself busy.
  2. Nominate yourself as the driver: if you offer to pick people up or just drive yourself, you have the perfect excuse for people not to encourage you to drink more. If you don’t drive, have an escape “excuse” up your sleeve in case you feel you need it.
  3. Create your own treats: look up beforehand some exotic non-alcoholic cocktails and make a few. Offer to take them to and even dress them up with umbrellas and fruit, so they look interesting and you will find that people are more accepting as you appear to participate in self-indulgence.
  4. Exercise: get out for some long winter walks as well as continue with your usual exercise regime.
  5. Relax: line up some books and films that you’ve wanted to read or watch but haven’t had the time because you’ve been working. Make time for some self-indulgence and enjoy it. By planning some time to yourself it becomes your choice and you are doing it to be kind to yourself instead of because you have to.
  6. Volunteer: there are countless organisations that could use some extra help at Christmas. Volunteering is a great way to connect with other people who are doing the same thing and you will feel rewarded by helping others. You do not have to make a long-term commitment. Christmas always creates additional requirements for volunteers and you can find an opportunity to fit around your spare time.
  7. Have some support at the ready: if you do feel the urge to drink, make sure you have a list of numbers you can call to stop yourself. Whether these are friends and family, your counsellor or some helpline support, distraction from the urge to drink can be a lifeline.
  8. Talk to people: don’t struggle alone. If you find things are not going well, pick up the phone. The Christmas period is traditionally a time for reconnecting with people we haven’t seen for a while, so reach out to some old friends or call your close friends and ask for help.
Approaching Christmas with a different outlook can make all the difference. Instead of dreading it, grab the opportunity with both hands and plan a Christmas that you will enjoy instead of the one that everyone else expects you to have. After all, it is just a few days off work that has been given a different name. Use them as you might any other days off work, plan ahead, on your terms and even if it doesn’t fit the traditional idea of Christmas, you might find that you actually don’t dread it or even enjoy yourself.

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