New Year’s Eve; the Mother of all drinking holidays is upon us. As a newly minted member of “the dry life” I’ve been wondering: Is a sober holiday possible, and if so, could it possibly be any fun? (to be read aloud while pondering a la Carrie Bradshaw.)
Short answer: I hope so.
This will be my first NYE sans champagne for nearly two decades. I quietly decided to stop drinking alcohol on August 13, except it wasn’t all that quiet because I wrote a story about resetting my drinking and it was published on The Reset.
Turns out I am hardly alone in my struggle with “grey area” drinking — a drinking story that isn't accentuated by a harrowing rock bottom ending, nor would be classified as "problem" drinking. Unless you count debilitating depression and self-loathing as problems. I guess you could say it was only a problem for me. I hear far “worse” stories than mine at meetings and the only truthful response is “There but by the grace of God, go I.” We are all recovering from something.
SO. December 31, 2017, is looking to be a bit of an experiment. What will I do? Our plans are still forming, but I know I’ll need my own personal plan so I am not caught off guard when the clock tolls 12. ( Oh, who am I kidding? I won’t make it till then.)
In prepping for my own self-care, I decided to take a moment to encourage anyone who is newly sober or sober curious as they prepare to face the last night of the year and all the booze soaked hoopla with which it comes.
Below are three guiding thoughts accompanied by three soft cocktail recipes that I’ve compiled to bolster your confidence, affirm your convictions and hopefully, make you feel a little less anxious. <---- The root of so many bad decisions and the primary reason we drink in the first place.
A sober, self-care primer if you will!
1. A NEW VISION
Let’s talk about the holiday itself for a moment. Like Valentine’s Day, I have always found NYE to be a bit overrated. Having lived in New York much of my adult life, New Year’s Eve = overpriced, underwhelming Prix fix menus and contending with crowded streets of drunken fools who define fun as pissing into cups while waiting for a ball of light to fall from the sky. Thanks, but I can pretend the world is coming to an end from the coziness of my own home.
If you can look at the holiday with less expectation and treat it as just another evening, it removes the power we have assigned to what is really just a freezing cold night at the end of the calendar year.
Once you’ve readjusted your expectations, make a game plan. Decide before you leave if you are going to drink. Don’t leave it as an option if you really don’t want to drink. I know that if I say, “I’ll see how I feel once I’m there” that I will FEEL LIKE A DRINK ONCE I AM THERE.
If possible, bring your own festive soft beverages to your party. There is a reason we grownups need a glass affixed to our hand at parties. That drink is not just a drink. It is the way we have learned to socialize and feel sparkly. Yes, we’ve been lied to. It’s ok. There are other ways to sparkle and socialize and we will learn them eventually, but tonight we want a glass in our hand like everyone else.
Ok, so now you’re just hanging out on a normal night without alcohol. See how easy this is?
Another helpful shift for me has been focusing less on new year’s EVE and more on the imminent NEW YEAR: A fresh start. A New Possibility. A Clean Slate. What EVER will you do?!? Well, you will start by rising on January 1st rested and clearheaded. You’re already starting 2018 with an edge.
SOFT COCKTAIL: The Party Starter: 1 part honey basil Italian fruit soda, 2 parts peach pear La Croix sparkling water, serve over ice with fresh lime, but bring extra to share because people are going to want it.
2. TREAT YO SELF
I know a lot of newly sober people simply replace alcohol (or drugs or shopping or gambling or sex) with another habit, (smoking or food or work or shopping) and that isn’t a sustainable way to recover, but in the early days of sobriety on a hyped-up holiday like NYE, you get to indulge in whatever it is that will make you happy. Tonight is not the night to skip the bread basket or pass on dessert. PILE THOSE CARBS UP TO THE SKY, MY FRIEND, YOU DESERVE THEM!
Personally, feeling deprived is a trigger. When you look around and everyone is sipping (slurping) their favorite drink, it can feel lonely. There are some deeper, more meaningful ways to combat that isolation, but not tonight. Tonight is for celebrating and praising yourself for even attempting such a hard thing. Maybe a new dress or lipstick? I imagine you’ve saved a little money since giving up booze – reinvest it into something that will make you happy every time you wear or see it.
SOFT COCKTAIL: NO PAIN Pink Champagne: Put cotton candy in a glass, pour sparkling lime perrier over said cotton candy, garnish with a maraschino cherry and I dare you not to feel like a decadent member of the kids' table. (They always have the most fun anyway.)
3. PERMISSION TO BAIL
Does the plan you have in place fill you with dread? Is there no scenario you can envision that won’t end with you feeling miserable, sad and maybe wanting to drink? Cancel. You get a pass. Anyone who doesn’t understand might need to be put on a “friendships to reconsider” list for 2018. Seriously. You are doing hard work and you need to listen to your heart and body on this one. A cozy night in watching true crime shows or romantic comedies might be just what the doctor ordered. ( I think I just solidified my plans.) People will be disappointed and then people will get over it.
If you do bail on your plans, try not to be alone unless solitude would be a life-giving and welcome respite. I’m a mother of three, a dreamer, an introvert, and a 4 on the enneagram; to be alone is a GIFT . But if not drinking is new to you, a little accountability can mean the difference between drinking or not, so have a trusted partner or friend nearby that you can contact should you need to.
SOFT COCKTAIL: Homebody Elixir: Place 2 tablespoons ginger syrup in a glass, fill glasses with ice cubes, pour in sparkling apple cider, and stir to combine. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and fresh ginger and you’re basically fighting cold and flu season whilst being low-key festive.