In this seasonal guest blog, therapist Tania Glyde looks at what makes this time of year such a challenge.
Whether you love Christmas or hate it, your relationship with alcohol is likely to be intensified over the next couple of weeks – at least until New Year’s Day comes and the good intentions start to kick in. If you’re thinking of slowing down your alcohol use, this time of year (however much we may love it in other ways) sits in the calendar like a big monster waiting to pounce on our plans.
The greatest pressure on us at this time of year is that we are supposed to be happy and like things that everyone else seems to like doing. This often involves participating in activities with groups of other people, in noisy environments, with food and/or music playing, and little chance of escape. We may feel obliged to join in with games and other group things that we actually loathe. These kinds of activities are traditionally accompanied by alcohol, perhaps because it is the alcohol that makes it seem so much more fun.
If you’re used to coasting through this period with half a bottle of vodka in your pocket, the sober wake-up call can be powerful.
For more on this, try Part One of my seasonal survival guide – What makes the festive season so stressful?
For more on how to make this time of year go more easily, try Part Two: Strategies for getting through it.
Men may be expected to buy all the drinks, and may be especially shamed in a group for not getting a round in. Men are also expected to consume large amounts and not be a lightweight. Excuses involving sports may suffice if a man is cutting down.
Women often do a lot of the emotional load-bearing at this time of year. They will be organising get-togethers and cooking huge meals and contributing heavily to seasonal social cohesion. This will be a source of stress that may or may not be helped by drinking. A woman may also be called a lightweight for not obeying group intoxication rules. A low or no drinking woman will be less pliable and less likely to laugh at bad jokes, and therefore in some quarters seen as suspect or even unattractive.
If the alternatives feel too complicated, you may decide to spend Christmas on your own. Some people think this is the worst thing ever. Actually it can be great. Take some time for yourself. You could spin a yarn about visiting a long-lost friend and just barricade yourself in with your pets (if you have them), the telly, and a nice cake or two.
Post Christmas you may experience a comedown. You got through it, but what now? There can be a sense of anticlimax that manifests in a number of ways. You can be left with a strong sense of the year ending and everything being the same, and this in turn may tempt you back to old drinking ways.
For more detail see Part 3: When it’s all over.
You discover all sorts of things about yourself and the world when you stop drinking, or just slow things down for a while. If you want this change to be permanent, you may find yourself making long-term changes to your life, about what you do and who you choose to see.
I wish you an excellent holiday season, and here’s to exciting changes in the new year.
For more on this subject, try ‘Surviving your first Christmas without alcohol’.