Managing urges to drink alcohol during festive season

As Christmas is fast approaching, some of us who are attempting an alcohol-free life are bracing ourselves for the temptations and urges presented along with this jolly season. Although temptations and urges occur throughout the year, we know that at this time it can be particularly testing. 

But with careful planning, we can get through this season without a drop of alcohol and finish the year strong!

Managing urges to drink involves some self-reflection on our part as well as some personal strategies to overcome them. There is no one solution that fits all, but we have pulled together some suggestions that might give your tool box a boost.


Self reflections

1. What sets you off?

It might help to spend time to reflect and write down when urges are strongest. Try to remember the times when alcohol was a part of your Christmas and New Year celebrations. Consider what led you to drink. Was it a celebration of hard work done for the year? Was there a particularly persuading drinking buddy? Did you feel pressure from a family member? Or was it the general party vibe that encouraged your drinking?

2. Plan strategies and rewards

Once you identify your urges and triggers, work out a plan and strategy to counteract these.  

If the urge is to reward yourself with drinks for making it through a tough year, consider buying yourself a gift or booking a holiday with the money saved from not buying drinks. 

As one of our HSM staff recalled her own experience of the Fear of Missing Out (on alcohol), her strategy was to reassure herself that the only thing she would be missing out on is a hangover – which is a good thing to miss out on! She then treated herself on her hangover-free morning with a special brunch and a posy of fresh flowers.

3. Reasons for not drinking

Not all gatherings can be avoided and there are some situations which  we just need to face head on – such as family gatherings. And this is where thinking about the reasons why you don’t drink could be your secret weapon. The key is to focus on your own purpose, goal and your own sobriety journey.

Think of the reason why you decided to stop drinking. Remind yourself and write it down on a piece of card or save it on your phone. When presented with challenges and thoughts, take a moment to pause and remind yourself of those reasons again. You’ve got this!


Tips and strategies

1. Be selective about location and event 

If it is a work Christmas party at about your intention to not drink. Find out who will be attending and stick with those who don’t drink. But if you really think turning up would be too much of a burden, skip the party completely.

2. Practise your line

Although we don’t have to give excuses for not drinking, sometimes we can stumble over words when we are caught off guard. Practising your line may help you answer sounding confident and spontaneous – and it will get easier over time. As frustrating as it may feel, others are on a different journey and not everyone is ready to accept your decision just yet.

3. Plan ahead

Bring your own AF drink, notify the host ahead of time and have an activity planned ready for the next morning. Steven from the HSM community, organised a bike ride with some local dads early the next morning. Being the organiser meant Steven needed to be up early and felt confident telling others.

Some of our Daybreak community members also suggested ringing the venue ahead of time and confirming they have AF drink options.

4. Focusing on the purpose of the gathering

If you find yourself invited to an event where alcohol is the main focus, then best to just not attend. If you do go along, focus on the conversations, try to appreciate the company and the surroundings.

5. Post on Daybreak app

There is no secret that support from others is immensely helpful. If you have our Daybreak app, why not reach out and post to let them know of your concerns . Our community is anonymous and incredibly supportive. If you don’t have the Daybreak app, reach out to your sober friend. Let them know how to help you stick with your goal.


But not all temptations are outside the home

Alcohol dependency is a complex topic and drinking with mates is not always the only challenge some of us are facing. Often Christmas can be a difficult time of the year, and drinking helps numb sadness and pain to help cope, even if it is just to get through the day. This includes drinking alone at home. Beyond removing alcohol at home and staying with someone who can keep us from drinking, remember that you don’t have to do this alone and there is help from professionals if you need it.

Below are some of the list that could be handy to have on your phone:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

Suicide call back service 1300 659 467

National alcohol & other drugs hotlines 1800 250 015

Alcohol drug information services ADIS Web Chat

Whatever the stage of your relationship with alcohol is, we hope you have a safe Christmas and a great New Year! Remember to look after yourself!


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  • I really like the idea of having something the next morning that you’ll want to do without a hangover. My motorcycle group has a Polar Bear ride (I’m in the US) that morning that I specifically didn’t sign up for because I was anticipating not feeling well. How horrible is that now that I think about it… planning on doing something you know will make you feel horrible in the morning and probably regret versus choosing to celebrate the next morning with friends and a passion. Thank you for getting me to think about it.

    By Laura
    December 17, 2021
    • Hey Laura
      I find riding a motorbike helps. Even before giving up alcohol completely I never drank while riding although I have had a couple of mornings where I was probably in the danger zone. I even bought a breathalyser for the morning after. I found that riding a bike means that people don’t pressurise you ‘to just have one’. I always say that it is dangerous enough without adding alcohol into the mix and because most people think that riding a bike is an insanely dangerous thing to do anyway, they leave you alone!

      By Richard
      December 17, 2021
  • Not drinking alcohol enhances social occasions during the holiday season. I feel more real, more authentic, and am a better listener. No worries the next morning about embarrassing behaviors or remarks. And I feel truly healthy now that I’m not dulling my wits with alcohol. I totally recommend going off drug alcohol! Kate Perkins

    By Katharine Perkins
    December 17, 2021
    • I haven’t had a drink since 08/18/05.

      By Katharine Perkins
      December 18, 2021
      • that’s amazing Katharine an inspiration

        By Sam Kinnersley
        December 24, 2021
  • I gave up drinking on January 1st this year. It’s my third serious attempt at giving up and by far the easiest, I think because I have negotiated a lot of these challenges already. It starts to feel normal not drinking and your friends accept it and don’t pressurise you. So, I would say to those of you that are just starting out on this journey, hang in there. Even if you slip up this Christmas/ New Year, don’t beat yourself up about it, try again in January

    By Richard
    December 17, 2021
    • I think that others accept it and stop their comments is really important to mention. It took my family and friends ages to stop debating with me every time they drank and I didn’t. I found it hard enough to break my dependence, especially at first and comments would make me feel awful and angry too. So if this is your first festive season try not to get caught up in debates about yourself and have some diversionary conversations handy! This is my third Xmas and comments from others about my drinking or not is still my major emotional button! Hang in!

      By H
      December 17, 2021
  • Outstanding.
    I know my biggest trigger before I joined Daybreak was the endless holiday party with my family of beautiful white sheep. Moderate drinkers, successful and composed. So happy with themselves, each other, and for their good hardworking lives and loving, imitative young families they truly should be. I love them all. But aargh … how can I escape… how can I disappear- I don’t belong here!!!

    I’m 3 years in now to a more mature attitude which is mostly sobriety and sometimes moderation. This year’s response to “why not just one”? is

    Because I quit for a while and I’m kicking ass. Why change what works?

    Love DB, you gave me every tool that makes me strong today. Rejoice! Merry Christmas

    By USAB
    December 17, 2021
  • To me, the difficult period starts in Autumn and culminates in December. I’ve tried numerous times to bridge it, without success. This year I took a radical step and use Antabuse as a lifeguard. I definitely helps, in combination with close monitoring with my GP.

    Not a dream situation, but I put my pride aside and just accept I need this medication not to drink in this period. All my close friends and family know about why I’m not drinking and don’t ask questions or pressure me to do so.

    By Phil
    December 17, 2021
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