Tag Archives: christmas

Here’s to a happy and sober 2014

Just checking in to wish you all a Happy New Year. I hope Christmas was good? I know I wasn’t the only one facing my first sober Christmas and on the whole I’m pleased to report it went pretty well.

There were a few challenges, as I knew there would be. There was some not-drinking awkwardness on Christmas Day when a relative handed me a glass of champagne. As everyone else raised their glasses and took a long sip I thought “Is this some kind of test? Or have they all just forgotten?” It turned out it was the latter. I didn’t want to make a scene and dithered over what to do for ages. In the end I left my glass untouched but no one seemed to notice.

I had a couple of pangs. I guess this was inevitable, especially as Christmas has always been a time that I’ve associated with drinking a lot and being ‘merry’. On Boxing Day I woke up looking forward to another day of eating and drinking, before remembering that I wouldn’t be drinking. Doh. Later we were eating delicious smoked salmon and I could have murdered a glass of white wine to go with the food. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying theirs.

Fortunately those cravings came and went pretty quickly and waking up the next day without a hangover more than made up for them. I tried not to dwell on the wolfie thoughts whenever I did hear them. In fact that is my new way of dealing with Wolfie. I don’t think about what he has to say until the next day. So far I have never woken up following morning and thought ‘gosh I should have listened to that voice telling me I was missing out by not drinking. I really wish I’d had a drink last night….’

It was great to feel ‘present’ around my family, rather than obsessing over where and when the next drink was coming from. I think I ate less and I was definitely less grumpy. All in all, being sober at Christmas was, well, not a big deal really. And I mean that in a good way. For me, alcohol had been such a huge part of the festive period that I couldn’t imagine what it would be like without it. When I tried repeatedly in 2012 to stop drinking one of my big stumbling points had been my birthday and Christmas. I just couldn’t imagine how I could ever have fun or be able to celebrate without alcohol.

I’ve been writing some New Year’s resolutions today and have been rereading last year’s list in the process. I’d totally forgotten about half of them (“be able to do 30 proper press ups by the time I turn 30” – what was I thinking?!) but there’s one I clearly remember writing: “stop drinking home alone”. With hindsight that sounds like a goal made by someone who knew she had a problem but was desperately trying to find a way to carry on drinking. Well, I think I’ve smashed that target. Sure, it took me until April to get round to it, but I had never imagined I’d stop drinking altogether. My alcohol related resolution for this year is to stay sober for the whole of 2014. Bring it on!

A Christmas food question

They say the average person consumes 7,000 calories on Christmas day. I’m not surprised. One of my favourite things about Christmas (aside from all the presents) is the food. In my family we eat the same thing every single year. It absolutely has to be turkey, with pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, stuffing, gravy, the works. All washed down with lots of red wine, of course. The turkey is followed by Christmas pudding, doused in brandy and served with brandy sauce. By late afternoon everyone will be passed out in a food coma watching crap TV. But as if by magic, a few hours later we’ll find room for cheese and biscuits, Christmas cake and half a tub of Quality Street.

No wonder I can never fit into my skinny jeans come January 1st.

Obviously this year I’ll be skipping the champagne breakfast, buckets of red wine and G&Ts. And that’s fine. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Not at all. To be honest, the combination of all that food and alcohol made me feel unpleasantly drowsy and uncomfortable. By the afternoon I’d have a headache and would start feeling annoyed with everyone.

So I’m actually looking forward to not drinking this year. My question is this: what about the food?

I love Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, but are they off the menu now? I think the pudding probably is. It’s covered in brandy and set alight just before serving, so I don’t think the alcohol is burnt off properly. What about the Christmas cake? Made in November, it is topped up with brandy in late December.

On the other hand, what’s the big deal about consuming alcohol in food? It’s not going to get me drunk. I’d be sick before I got at all tipsy. But will it reignite my taste for alcohol? Until now I have avoided food with alcohol in like the plague. I don’t even buy mouthwash with alcohol in it, just in case.

I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out. My mum always serves the same food on Christmas day – it’s tradition. So I can’t just say “let’s have chocolate cake instead this year”. Anyway, I don’t want to kick up a fuss. It’s taken my family a while to get their heads round the fact that I don’t drink now. But not eating certain foods? I’m not sure they’ll understand that and I’m not sure I want to miss out.

A Christmas party I’d rather forget

I still cringe when I think about last year’s work party.

It was at a fairly small bar in town, midweek, and people started gathering around 6.30pm. I turned up ready to start drinking on an empty stomach. I knew the bar served very little in the way of food, but there was no way I was going to eat beforehand. Why would you want to slow the alcohol absorption? I wanted to have a nice time and that meant getting drunk. 

I remember buying a round of drinks right at the start. We love buying rounds in the UK. Half way through my first drink, more people arrived and a friend topped up my glass of wine. Then someone I’d bought a drink for got me a drink. Then I started talking to some other people and I must have been gulping my drink because I finished before anyone else was ready to get another round in. Rather than wait for them, I went back to the bar and got a drink for myself. So greedy. I think I moved on to gin and tonics. (Doubles, obviously).

I remember the Secret Santa because I got some awful, ugly scarf as a present, but – as you have no idea who bought it – I had to make a big show of absolutely loving it. After that was over some of the tables in the centre of the bar got pushed aside, the lights dimmed and the music turned up. A few people started dancing, but it was a bit weird because the bar was too small. It was like being at a wedding reception, when everyone stands round watching two people sway awkwardly on the ‘dance floor’, ie a few square metres of laminate flooring at the end of the room.

The next thing I remember is a load of people gate crashing the party. I work in TV for quite a big broadcaster and after a while I realised the gate crashers were actually radio journalists from the building next to ours. I recognised one of them – let’s call him J – as we worked together several years ago. I knew he liked me because he’d told me so on many other drunken occasions in my early twenties. He’s alright looking but unfortunately he’s really boring and has an ego the size of the planet. Oh, and he thinks he’s God’s gift to women.

Anyway, all of sudden I think it’s a great idea to dance with him, in front of everyone. Suddenly we’re dancing really close and I’m aware people are watching. But I don’t care because wine is running through my veins and I’m so sexy, right? We start kissing, proper full on cringey snogging, just metres away from my colleagues, bosses, editors, my line manager and just about anyone that matters. Someone takes a photo and threatens to put in on Facebook.

After a while, the people J arrived with announce they’re going. He suggests we go too. Can he walk me back to my flat? Through the drunken haze I think: yes, that is probably a good idea. It’s freezing cold and all the way home J keeps saying “Wow, this is a nice surprise!” By the time we get to mine I’ve started to sober up, but when he asks if he can come in I still say yes. After more kissing and god knows what else, I realise that having sex with J is going to be a very bad idea. I tell him this and he thinks I’m joking. It takes ages to convince him that yes, I do actually want him to get dressed and walk home in the cold at 2am. Eventually he gets the message and leaves, thank goodness.

It took months for people to stop teasing me about The Christmas Party Incident and much longer for me to be able to look my boss in the eye. Journalists have a reputation for being heavy drinkers but it’s a bit of an old cliché now. No one I work with has long boozy lunches or ‘meetings’ with contacts in the pub. So my behaviour stood out and although I laughed off all the banter and jokes, privately I was mortified at being so out of control. I knew I drank too much when home alone, but this time I’d done it in public.

This year’s work Christmas party is going to be different, because a) I don’t drink anymore and b) I’m not going. It clashes with something else and to be honest I’m pleased to get out of it. As it happens, quite a few people can’t make it this year so a group of us have organised something else, a kind of alternative Christmas party night out.

It’s in a few days time and I’m looking forward to it but I also feel nervous too. I’ve been a bit of a hermit recently as sometimes going out just feels like hard work. We’re all meeting at someone’s house first, where I’m sure I’ll be offered a drink. So straightaway it’ll be hard to get a soft drink discretely. I think most people know I haven’t been drinking recently but they might be surprised that I’m still not drinking. They always seem to think it’s just a temporary thing, but maybe that’s my fault for letting them think that in the first place.

Anyway, I’ve bought a new dress and I’m getting my hair cut that day, so hopefully I will feel good and look great… and have a fun, SOBER night out.

How did we normalise abnormal drinking?

I came across this article and blog last night.

http://veronicavalli.com/2013/07/how-did-we-normalise-abnormal-drinking/  

It’s good isn’t it? It voices something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I think it was whilst I was at university that I decided that fun= getting drunk. Until then I’d enjoyed getting drunk (and perhaps more so than any of my friends) but drinking hadn’t been the only way to have fun.

Most people rein in their drinking as they get older and acquire more responsibilities like jobs and children etc. (I didn’t cut back but I’m talking about normal drinkers here, or at least what society considers ‘normal’) What I’ve noticed is that even though normal people may start to drink less frequently, they still consider drinking to be the best way of having a good time. Sure, they’ve grown up and moved on from alcopops and shots to fancy wine …but basically they still look forward to consuming a lot of alcohol in one go because that is the best way to have ‘FUN’.

So if binge drinking chardonnay is considered ‘normal’ that must make people like me abnormal, right? It certainly feels that way at times. What’s annoying is that whilst I can have a good night out sober, me not drinking seems to offend other people. If they don’t notice I’m on lemonade then it’s fine, but once they do the spell seems to be broken. Perhaps they’re worried I’m judging them? Looking down on them from my sober high horse?  

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this past week as I’ve RSVP’d to a few Christmas invites. The festive party season is starting to feel like yet another hurdle to get over when really it should be fun. So I am going to try and come up with a little Christmas party survival plan. Let me know your thoughts and tips…