Jacintha Akkerman

Sober Tips for the Holiday Season

This week’s guest blog post is written by Jacintha – an integrative nutrition and holistic health coach, passionate about helping people live more fulfilled lives. She recently launched a new series called HAPPY SOULS where she has interviewed inspiring people who’ve had amazing life journeys. To find out more about her, visit jacinthaakkerman.com or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Jacintha Akkerman


The silly season is fast approaching, and Santa is starting to pack his sleigh. It’s a time for all the Christmas tunes to be belted out at full pitch – cue It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas by Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas.

Christmas brings times of connection, giving, belly laughs, being with friends and family, indulgent food and being festive. But does having fun and being festive mean we need to write ourselves off? No.

My name is Jacintha. Pre motherhood I liked to party. I liked to party a lot. I used to have the motto, ‘I’m here for a good time, not a long time’, and by golly, I’ve had a good time. But did it make me eternally happy? No. And in hindsight, how awful was that motto?

Every Sunday morning for years and years, I would wake up, extremely hungover, wanting a better life for myself, but I didn’t know how to get there. This wasn’t the life I envisioned. This was not who I wanted to be.

When I finally decided to give up drinking (I’m coming up to four years sober), it wasn’t accepted by my peers. ‘Just have one’ they would say. Well, I didn’t want one. When alcohol was in my system, the downhill spiral effect started. I would get drunk. Then I would eat bad food. Then I would have broken sleep. Then I would get grumpy. Due to lack of sleep and poor nutrition, my skin would break out, and I wouldn’t want to go out in public because my face resembled a pizza! And exercise, well forget that for about five days.

As humans, we find it so difficult to set boundaries and say ‘no’ to an invitation that we don’t want to accept. But the word ‘NO’ is one of the most empowering words we can use. So why is it that we feel like an outsider if we say ‘no’? Why do so many feel bad if they say ‘no’ to drinking? Why do people feel they need to drink to fit in? Whatever happened to ‘fitting out’?

A lot of people don’t realise this, but alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt that balance, affecting our thoughts, feelings and actions – and sometimes our long-term mental health. So add that to a bad hangover, lousy nutrition, plus no exercise (which is imperative for mental health for many), and you have a recipe for disaster.

With Christmas just around the corner, every holiday season can bring challenges surrounding family and friends. It is a very emotional time for many. Situations, or people from our childhood that we haven’t dealt with, trigger many of us. Emotions are heightened during the festive season as many have lost loved ones or don’t have a loved one to spend it with. So be kind to yourself and to others who may be suffering. In any situation, make it your habit to ask yourself: How can I see this from the perspective of love with more forgiveness and compassion?

My tips for being sober the holiday season are:

1. Think before you drink. If you pick up a drink, think about how you are going to feel tomorrow.

Drinking can be fun in the moment, but how will you feel the next day? Remember those times when you were curled up in a ball on a Sunday morning with a thumping headache? Choose your worst hungover moment and remember those moments when you pick up your first drink.

The first step I made to go cold turkey on quitting drinking, was thinking about how I would feel tomorrow. For me, it wasn’t about living in the moment. It was about living for the future. Drinking excessively and waking up hungover to a two-year-old was not how I wanted to live. I would prefer to wake up fresh on a Sunday morning so that I could play with my baby boy. Think before you drink.

2. Set yourself a fun task to do with friends the next day.

Making plans with friends and having to be accountable to others is a great way to stop you from slipping-up during the silly season. Quite often, we don’t mind letting ourselves down, but we find it more challenging to let others down.

One of the best ways I found was to make plans with friends early, so it will encourage me to focus on the exciting adventures to be had. Some great ideas are market days, early morning walks, breakfast dates, nature play, hikes, 1000 steps etc.

3. Drive so you can escape whenever you need to.

As they say, nothing ‘fun’ happens after midnight. It is always great to put a timeframe on when you want to leave a function or party. Driving is an excellent way for you to have the freedom to do so.

Driving also seems to be a pretty acceptable excuse for not drinking and is a great excuse to use for those that succumb to pre-pressure easily. But please ensure if you do decide to drink, to leave your car behind.

4. When someone says ‘just have one’, say ‘no’.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry would say to me ‘just have one’, but I didn’t want to have just one. It’s incredible how many people try to pressure you to be at their level.

Empower your choices. You do not need to live your life by other people’s standards. Don’t let people force you into something you don’t want to do.

That one drink can turn into two. And then can turn into ten. It’s ok to say NO.

5. Come up with a standard response as to why you are not drinking.

At the start of my sobriety, I found it challenging to come up with an acceptable excuse for not drinking. If I stated, I was ‘not drinking’ people would look at me like a deer in headlights. Why?!

I found it best to come up with a standard response as to why I wasn’t drinking. I began with ‘I am the designated driver tonight’. ‘I have an early start tomorrow’. Then as time progressed and I built my confidence, I would state ‘I don’t drink anymore’, ‘I am not drinking tonight’, ‘alcohol is not good for my health’ etc.

Find something that works for you and run with it.

6. Find a non-alcoholic drink that you can have so you still feel social.

Often when you quit drinking, you don’t feel the need to have something in your hands continually. Find yourself a non-alcoholic drink to consume, so you still feel part of the fun (without the thumping hangover).

My go-to was soda and fresh lime. It was a great drink to order, so people assumed it was laced with alcohol and didn’t ask too many questions. Otherwise, in my early days, when I was secretly sober, I would order a cocktail and whisper to the waitress to hold the alcohol and make it a mocktail.

These days there are so many great options for non-alcoholic drinks you can choose from.

7. The holiday season can be very triggering for many.

Yes, it certainly can. During the festive season, emotions are heightened. You tend to spend extra time with family and friends. People can be quite sad during this time and triggered very quickly. They also tend to be running on empty and are quite exhausted – and short-fused.

As humans, we tend to say ‘yes’ to things way too often, when ideally we would like to say ‘no’. And this, therefore, brings up emotions of resentment.

So, choose the parties/functions you wish to attend, wisely, and pre-plan your exit. And remember, you don’t have to go to everything you’re invited to.

In times when you are triggered by someone or something someone says, take three deep breaths before responding or walk away.

8. In moments of weakness, choose a mantra (or affirmation) to repeat to yourself, like ‘I am strong’.

It’s easy to overreact in situations, so I highly recommend finding a mantra that works for you. Mantras are a great way to shift our mindset from a negative to a positive thought.

So, when you see that annoying uncle approaching, say a mantra to yourself like ‘I am strong’, which will instantaneously switch your mindset and mood.

9. Not everyone is going to accept your decision to quit drinking. Be ok with that.

My decision to quit drinking was the best decision for me, and that decision should be celebrated not frowned upon. When I decided to quit alcohol, it was indeed not accepted by my peers. Especially considering I used to be a big drinker.

If such a decision triggers someone close to you, don’t take it personally. Quite often if someone is triggered, they may project that onto you. The way people react to things has nothing to do with you. It is something inside themselves that they need to work on.

If a decision you made for yourself, like not drinking, has triggered something inside of someone, they may feel fear arise as potentially that is something they wish they could do for themselves, but simply can’t. There could be something inside themselves that they may need to look at.

So smile and walk away. Make choices in life for YOU. You only have one life, so live it to its fullest.

 

Jacintha Akkerman beach

Love, light and gratitude,

Jxo  

15 Comments

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  • Hi mousie, you did a great job with this!! Congratulations you know, & probably realise that a lot of what you say correlates with the teachings of AA! I went through a period in my life, lasting about 10 years, shortly after my brother, Mark, passed away. I was dependent on both prescription meds & alcohol, & as a result had 3 admissions to Delmont for detox. I had been sober for 10 years, until recently when I visited my sisters in Perth. Fortunately I FEEL IN CONTROL NOW, not the other way round . It gives you power & strength to be in control! What you mentioned in tip 1, we refer to it as memory detail, & it is very strong. Keep up the good work love, oh, & I won’t be offering you a drink at chrissy. Sorry to ramble on, but know exactly where you’re coming from. Lots of love xxxxxxxx

    By Aunty jan
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    December 12, 2019
  • awesome , that gives me some good ideas for not drinking at the partys im going to, thanks

    By rodney
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    December 12, 2019
  • Thanks for your tips. I’m 14 months AF I’m still justifying it to friends.

    By Yvonne
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    December 12, 2019
  • Come up with a standard response as to why you are not drinking. – You don’t need a reason or an excuse and if anyone has a problem with you not drinking it’s their own issue! It’s hard if they are loved ones or family but it’s easy to just walk away and let them know that it’s your decision and you don’t need any reasoning for it! Try and surround yourself with like minded people and don’t let negative opinions stop you from making the right choices in your life.

    By Cassandra Bauer
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    December 12, 2019
  • Thank you so much for all the tips. Brilliant. I’ll keep them on my iPhone to refer to over the summer festive season. Happy Christmas to all.

    By Robyn
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    December 12, 2019
  • Thanks Jacintha I’m 30 days sober and reasonably confident I can continue, but your tips are a great help as Xmas approaches. Cheers and Thanks

    By Peter
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    December 12, 2019
  • I have found this blog very inspiring and helpful. I have been struggling with alcohol use and have been on a roundabout of stop drinking..go back etc. The upcoming Christmas time is going to be tough for me but these tips I will use. Thankyou Jacinta

    By Sharon
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    December 12, 2019
  • Great article. I have been wanting to change for so long. On day 18AF. Already feel so much better. Thank you for the tips, you look amazing

    By Kathy
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    December 12, 2019
  • Thank you. I needed to hear that.

    By Potts
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    December 12, 2019
  • A lovely article and some good tips in here. I find myself back at the start again after a number of successful years AF and then a gradual slide back down the slope. I am looking forward to being AF again and the better life that it brings.

    By Tri721
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    December 12, 2019
  • Very inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing. Just what I needed right now.

    By Janelle McCaffrey
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    December 12, 2019
  • Great article. I’m coming up to 3 years AF, and in the early days it felt like I was the weird one for not drinking, I was even pitied by some for not being able to drink and “party” anymore. Keep up the good work J !

    By Edmund Bosco
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    December 14, 2019
  • Good to read – i really want to give up drinking. It has had some serious costs to my health and, after being fairly moderate on the back of a serious, alcohol related health issue (which i had managed to turn around) for almost a decade, in the last 12months i have found myself slipping into unhealthy drinking more and with greater frequency. I can also tell it’s starting to cause health problems again. I really want to stop and, when left to my own devices, have no problem not even thinking about booze – my problem is social – im a big social and binge drinker. Like you, the ‘big drinker’ who is the ‘life of the party’. Im scared to call time once and for all on my drinking due to not knowing how to handle social situations without it, not knowing who i ‘am’ if im not that guy from the pov of others and, of course, on never again having that ‘sweet spot’ of booze-induced ‘fun’ – before it all goes pear shaped – even though ive had decades of that (which i guess answers that question). But MOST of all, scared of losing friends – who are good people who i care about very much – but for whom socializing almost always means drinking. But then, if i die from this, i have NOTHING anyway…and i have kids who need me. And a life i love. Anyway…im not sure what i hoped to gain by posting but i think the answer is obvious; just stop. I just have to find the strength and the balls to do it. Thanks for the article

    By Steve
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    December 19, 2019
  • I am in the craving phase on day 4 of AF…. reading this post is most helpful. I struggle with not just the craving, but the potential loss of friendships and marital strain with the “loss of a drinking buddy”. I know that over time this will all shake out for the best! Hello Sunday Morning has been sooo inspirational and thought-provoking. Thank you!

    By Catherine
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    December 19, 2019
  • Thanks for this. Overseas holiday coming up with family (annual tradition) and it generally includes quite a lot of booze.. Going to be hard to say no, but feeling stronger having tread this. 🙂

    By William
    |
    February 17, 2020
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