When I used to think about drinking at Christmas time, I saw it as the gateway to merry mischief. It was an excuse to snog the living daylights of a random fitto under a dishevelled branch of mistletoe sticky-taped to a grotty pub ceiling; a chance to frivolously push responsibilities off a metaphoric cliff, to stretch myself to the limits of dizzy sozzled heights all in the name of, F*** IT, IT’S CHRISTMAS.
As much as my friends relish retelling drunken festive stories about me, I figured perhaps this year, I’d celebrate my festive build-up in a slightly different way.
The messy drunken antics around this time of year come along with the not-so-festive wine-fuelled tiffs in the street with my boyfriend and very real anxiety-inducing beer fear, which usually manifests itself as a series of frantic texts to my friends from my bed the next morning: “Was I okay last night?”, “Did I say the wrong thing?”, “Did I really start ranting about why it’s a travesty that there aren’t more independent cinemas to anyone who would listen?”
And don’t get me started on these Christmas socials wreaking havoc on my finances, productivity and a strong desire to eat nothing but junk the next day, while I contemplate how to regain a bit dignity back from the night before.
I’ve been avoiding getting drunk this Christmas period and my mental and physical health has inevitably been better off because of it. I do like to drink but, I’ve realised, Christmas without the massive booze-up, but with the benefits, is quite the sweet revelation for my gin-loving soul.
I don’t wake up hating myself after a festive night out anymore, I have more disposable income to spend on catching up with friends, and I have way more time to do things I actually want to do, like writing, baking and running, without a two-day hangover clouding my festive spirit.
However, the pressure to drink at Christmas social events is still tangible. Not getting drunk at Christmas still makes some people think you’re a self-righteous, judgemental, boring arse who thinks they’re better than everybody else. And it’s difficult when invitations are pouring in for just about everything that centres around alcohol.
I used to think the only way I could get out of drinking was faking pregnancy or saying I was driving. Considering my friends know I don’t drive and I’m in no position to have children anytime soon, I’m not sure how effective these methods were. Sometimes I’d lie feebly about being “on antibiotics”, but then I’d always get the rebels around me telling me to drink regardless.
This boozy period must take its relentless, tiresome toll on those who have drinking problems, people who can’t drink for religious reasons or those who don’t drink out of choice all year around. There seems to be a pressure seeping from just about everywhere to drink. Whether it’s in advertisements, the media, a restaurant you walk into, British culture encourages us to be a society of drinkers. Can’t we be merry without the alcohol? Is it not possible to celebrate Christmas without a drink in our hands?
It’s a challenge, but I’ve found you just have to have confidence in not feeling obliged to explain your decision in great detail to anyone. For those who, like me, have opted out of boozing it up this season, try to avoid saying “just” before your request – eg, “just a Coke” – because as soon as you sound unsure, people will try to talk you round to an innocent glass of gin and tonic. The more you say no, the stronger you’ll get and the less hard it’ll feel.
One of the other ways I cope is by using the same glasses for non-alcoholic drinks as most would with booze. I don’t drink alcohol-free wine, as I don’t happen to like the taste of death, but most things taste better in a fancy glass, especially if you make it look good with fruit, herbs and spices. It’s the power of the mind.
But the best tip I’ve ever received on how to handle not drinking around Christmas is: “Tell the fun police who want to know why you’re not drinking to f*** off and mind their own business.”
And I couldn’t agree with that sentiment more.
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