The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…to Be Sober?

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It’s Christmas. And, if you’re sober, that means you’re going to miss out on all the bonhomie and joy, concentrating instead on being careful not to slip. Sure, it’s not fun, but the alternative is unthinkable if you’re in recovery. Right?

Christmas, I would argue, is the worst possible time of the year to drink. Everything that comes with the season is better done sober, in my experience. For example:

1) Your presents will be wrapped properly.

It’s hard enough to cover a bicycle helmet in smooth paper and a neatly tied ribbon at the best of times. It’s especially difficult when you’re doing it after a few hefty glasses of Shiraz, or with the morning-after shakes. Plus, when you stop drinking, your evenings open up before you in great yawning chasms.

There are times of the year when this might feel daunting. What will you do with all that time? But Christmas is not one of them. Suddenly, you’ll have the answer for all the times you’ve looked at Pinterest posts of intricately wrapped piles of gifts and wondered aloud “who has time for that?” You do.

2) You’ll remember to buy the presents in the first place.

A study published in Neurology in early 2014 shows that men drinking 2.5 drinks a day showed signs of memory loss. Heavy drinkers are more likely to be consuming 10 or more drinks a day, with greater memory loss as a result.

Christmas abounds with must-do tasks to remember: Marinate the turkey at least a day ahead; remember to move that creepy Elf on a Shelf every night; avoid paying premium shipping rates by ordering early. You’ll tackle the holiday tasks much faster and better if your mental faculties are at full strength – which they won’t be if you’re drinking.


3) “Santa” will be stealthy.

Sneaking into your child’s bedroom in the middle of the night to stuff their stocking with gifts adds that little touch of magic to the occasion. But if you stumble against your child’s bedpost in the dark after your fifth whiskey, swear so loudly that you wake the entire household and squash the tangerine in the process, your child will likely bust you a few years earlier than you’d hoped.

4) Pre-dawn wakings become bearable.

Let’s face it, your children will wake you up well before the sun does on Christmas Day – and very few things are less likely to infuse the day with innocent joy than greeting them with fetid breath and swollen eyes. Not to mention, since you have to listen to Jingle Bells anyway, you’re better off doing it without a headache.

…since you have to listen to Jingle Bells anyway, you’re better off doing it without a headache.

5) Dealing with the relatives is easier.

Christmas is about family, which can be a blessing or a curse. For every picture-perfect gathering, there are plenty more gatherings where the family members assembled are longing to be done with the small talk and return to their own homes.

But this is why we need to drink, you may argue. A glass of whiskey will take the edge off the barbs and banality of the extended family conversation.

The counter-argument is that this is precisely why you need to not drink: You are in the lion’s den; you need your wits about you. That way, when confronted with your mother-in-law’s specialty conversation piece, the Sting in the Tail (“That’s a lovely dress little Ella has on, dear. I think it’s so interesting that you modern parents don’t fuss with ironing. It must free up so much time!”), you’ll be equipped with a searing rebuttal, rather than mumbling incoherently and reaching for the whiskey.

And with all those long sober evenings behind you, your children’s hair will be brushed, your presents exquisitely wrapped and your centerpiece the pride of place, silencing her once and for all. You don’t think Martha Stewart downed a bottle of Shiraz before constructing Gingerbread Downton, do you?

And with all those long sober evenings behind you, your children’s hair will be brushed, your presents exquisitely wrapped and your centerpiece the pride of place…

6) It’s easier to be sincere.

Look, there is no denying the fact that Christmas is corny…but therein lies its magic. You can only survive another screening of It’s A Wonderful Life if you feel a genuine gratitude and an earnest love for humankind.

You may think that you feel more loving towards the world after a few spiked eggnogs, but that’s an illusion.

There’s no getting around the fact that alcohol is a depressant. It slows your central nervous system and blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. Alcohol alters your perceptions, emotions, movements, vision and hearing. After knocking back a couple of drinks, you can experience aggressive feelings, or find that your anxiety and stress spike – not what you need at an already emotional time of year.

So, if you’re sober this Christmas, just raise your hot spiced apple juice and toast yourself.

Learn why aftercare is essential for a successful recovery.

Image Credits: Flickr/Imogene

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