This is a guest blog by Rachel Black.
How am I feeling about Christmas this year? This will be my second sober Christmas and I look forward to it with an overwhelming feeling of relief that I need not drink.
December was a great month for drinking to excess: everyone was ‘partying hard’ and ‘hilarious’ behaviour was both permitted and excused. Everything was associated with drinking alcohol. Cafes with twinkly lights enticed me to enhance my shopping experience with a drink. Putting up decorations deserved a glass of wine as a reward, if not to earlier to ease the process. Catching up, visiting, socialising. It all revolved around drinking and I was always up for it.
I planned for hangovers, juggling commitments to accommodate feeling below par. My routine was established: cash from the machine, house key off the bunch and my ‘party purse’ to minimise what I could lose. Pre-booked taxis ensured a ride home if I became unable to call.
By Christmas Eve I was exhausted. Still, I drank more wine, argued with my brother, set the world to rights with my father. A final glass after presents were laid out meant later to bed and a hangover guaranteed on Christmas morning. I would drag my head from the pillow as the children rushed in, full of joy and noisy excitement. I felt awful, rebranding it as ‘tired’, with some guilt thrown in.
We often had house guests. I deserved to drink after the endless cooking. I needed it to deal with the ‘stress’. I was wary of my drinking being observed and concealed a glass within the mess of preparation or among unwashed glasses. I suspect I did not hide it well.
I invited friends to our house. Usually in the afternoon to enable an early start. The children were left to amuse themselves while the adults chatted and drank. I resented the intrusion each time a child appeared, interrupting, needing adult input.
Even when nothing was planned, I would open another bottle of wine. It seemed to be all I knew. My mind could not fathom having the opportunity to drink yet choosing not to do so.
My Christmas stress was due to wine. I failed to see it was the cause of problems, rather than the solution.
Last year was my first sober Christmas. The decorations went up without stress or drama. I didn’t mind that they were mismatched, home-made and distributed unevenly. My children were happy with their work.
I went to few Christmas parties: ones I chose on their merits rather than the abundance of booze. I enjoyed chatting sincerely, the food, and driving home at a sensible hour. I love the frisson of pleasure after a good night out knowing there will be no price to pay the next day.
I was up bright and early on Christmas morning, sharing the enthusiasm, not resenting the early hour. The day was lovely. It did not disintegrate as I got drunk and I did not fall asleep after lunch.
Without guests, there was no need to offer wine, open wine, have wine, hide wine, manage wine. I was content with what I have, to be what we are. I did not invite families to permit afternoon drinking. I’m no longer hiding from reality, hiding behind the booze. I am not pre-occupied by how bad I feel or with what I will drink later.
For the second time, I will relax, unwind, and thoroughly enjoy one of our few remaining Santa years.